Hwange community sues Chinese mining company

Hwange residents have approached the High Court to stop a new Chinese coal mining company from extracting the mineral because there were no prior consultation with locals.

The application for an interdict, seen by CITE, was made by the Greater Whange Residents Trust (GWRT) at the Bulawayo High Court.

Residents want an order stopping Mutagech Logistics Private Limited, a Harare-based company, from carrying out any mining activity until the company procedurally consults locals.

Mutagech was granted a special grant to prospect and mine for coal in Change and Nekabandama wards in Hwange Rural District Council and recently moved on-site intending to start mining.

This becomes the second Chinese coal mine to clash with villagers after Beifer Investments which was given a Special Grant to prospect for coal in the neighbouring Dinde area in the same district.

Beifer stopped mining activities when the community petitioned Parliament which sent the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Climate and Tourism to investigate the issue and discovered that traditional leadership in the area had privately met with the mine authorities without consulting villagers.

In the latest issue, villagers claim the local chief Nekatambe and his seven village heads met the Mutagech investors and each was allegedly bribed with a bicycle and groceries to accede to the mining venture, which is likely to dislocate about 300 families, according to court papers.

GWRT, its coordinator Fidelis Chima and Onesmus Mpala are the three applicants while Mutagech, Hwange Rural District Council and Environmental Management Agency are respondents.

The applicants are seeking legal recourse as they are not happy that Mutagech only consulted traditional leaders and ignored the community and local councillor Ishamel Kwidini who once wrote to the mine authorities complaining about the failure to consult villagers.

“The applicants seek to restrain and interdict the 1st respondent Mutagech from carrying on mining activities at the intended Nechenge Coal Mine project site in Hwange on the basis that the local community was not consulted as is made mandatory by the constitution of Zimbabwe as read with the Environmental Management Act,” said Chima in his founding affidavit.

He said consultation by the mine was limited to Chief Nekatambe, headman Joseph Change and seven village heads.

Chima said the application is in terms of Section 73 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe as read with Section 4 of the EMA Act Chapter 20:27 and the Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystem Protection Regulations 2007, Statutory Instrument 7/2007.

“A meeting was held between representatives of the 1st and 3rd respondents together with traditional leaders on the 17th of August 2021 at Mr P Mpala’s homestead.

“Further as applicants have been told, the eight or so traditional leaders who were approached in consultation were given inducements of a bicycle each and groceries.

“The absence of protection by any other remedy is self-evident and the applicants have no other remedy serve for that which is now sought. Wherefore the applicants pray that the application is granted in terms of the order sought,” said Chima.

Mutagech is yet to respond.

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