Chief bemoans infrastructure damage by coal miners

By Tinashe Mungazi 

Villagers and traditional leaders in Hwange are up in arms with new coal mining companies accusing them of damaging public roads and cutting off communities from accessing essential services in urban areas.

According to Chief Whange, since the companies began operations some 6 years ago, they have done nothing to rehabilitate the Msuna-Hwange public road despite making huge profits from exploiting coal.

The said road services communities such as Makwa, Sidinda, Chachachunda and Mashala while also serving as a gateway to Msuna for tourists.

He singled out Sandledge mine,formerly WK and Chilota mine as the main culprits. A five kilometre stretch from the mines to the highway  is badly damaged and impassable following the movement of haulage trucks carrying coal to Hwange power station.

“What these companies are doing is bad. When they came in the found the road in good condition and went on to cause damage using haulage trucks. Only after the damage did they open alternative routes while neglecting the rehabilitation of the one they had rendered impassable. I have tried to engage the owners of the mines but to no avail as it is manned by contractors who have no say,” said Chief Whange. 

He said though the District Development Coordinator (DDC) even called for a meeting but nothing materialised as only junior staff was sent to hear out the chief and other roads users. 

“A meeting was called by the DDC but it appears the companies don’t want to commit themselves to the issue. The damage to the road is making transporters to shun it while tourism is being affected as the road is a getaway to Msuna resort and other recreational activities such as fishing”. 

Following a public outcry,a meeting was organised earlier this year by the DDC with the said mining companies and other stakeholders such as District transport officer, District mines inspector, EMA, traditional leaders and representatives from affected communities.

However, the company representatives failed to commit themselves to rehabilitating the roads arguing that there could not make decisions as they were junior. 

Some transporters were now shunning the route or charging exorbitantly citing high costs of vehicle maintenance as a result of the damaged road. 

Another road user, Reeds Dube who also sits on the ZINARA board said he was saddened by the state of the road and called for the companies in question to attend to the road. 

Sandledge Mining and Chilota Coal Mine have also been accused of polluting the Deka River resulting in the deaths of aquatic life and livestock. Though the companies through the contractors had pledged to rehabilitate the road from the mines to the main road nothing has been done yet. 

Meanwhile villagers in Lukosi, St Mary’s area say the movement of haulage trucks has not only caused damage to the road but is subjecting them to air pollution as clouds of coal dust envelopes the air.

The 7 kilometre stretch connects the main road with Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coking Company (ZZCC) where trucks ferry coke to their different destinations. 

The company which has been operating for more than 5 years announced to President Mnangagwa during his tour of Chinese companies 3 months ago that it was working on tarring the road as part of its giving back to the community however the rehabilitation is yet to kick off.

A village head who asked to remain anonymous told CITE that the dust was finding its way into people’s homes, St Mary’s hospital and St Mary’s primary school posing a potential health problem.

“The air pollution being caused by these trucks is serious people’s health are at risk as the dust which is mixed with coal is finding its way in homes, schools and at the hospital. Our are is now characterized by clouds of dust that now hang in the air with buildings covered in dust. The volume and frequency of the trucks has also led to the damage of the road used to connect with other areas with transporters now shunning it.

These guys have been operating for the past 6 years and have made profits but there have continued to neglect the need to safeguard our lives. We held a meeting as traditional leaders with company leadership at the onset of operations where they pledged to construct a tarred road to deal with issue of pollution but 6 years done the line nothing has been done, ” said the village head.

A woman who identified herself as maNyoni from Diki village said the air pollution was affecting her way of life as her children were constantly contracting flue and cough as a result of of inhaling the dust particles. 

Another villager, Maxwell Shoko said following several pleas from villagers and authorities from the clinic and hospital, the company would from time to time water the roads as part of suppressing the dust. 

“Village heads together with priests running the school and hospital made a united appeal and the company availed a water bowser with the company promising to start work on rehabilitating the road which say they want to tar it. It’s unfortunate that it has taken the company so long to work on considering that they have most of the things needed such as machinery, tar, gravel and labor. As a community we are yet to see the social corporate responsibility part and call on the company which we are grateful for providing jobs to our children to go a step beyond and assist us. “

Efforts to get a comment from the company’s spokesperson, Steve Li were fruitless as his mobile phone went unanswered however, at the time of publishing machinery was moving on site to work of rehabilitating the road. 

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button