Hwange villagers threaten legal action against Chinese miner

Villagers in Change and Nekabandama areas of Hwange are threatening legal action against a Chinese company which allegedly did not consult them before embarking on a coal mining project.

Mutagech Logistics which was issued with an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate last week moved on site in Diki area near a dam under Change ward to start mining.

However, villagers are protesting the move accusing the company of not consulting them.

Greater Whange Residents Trust coordinator, Fidelis Chima confirmed the development arguing that the move would not only lead to displacements but pollution of water bodies.

“Mutagech has started doing preparations for the mining activities near Kalope dam and villagers are afraid that the dam will be polluted like Deka dam. It is sad that the Environmental consultant of Mutagech did not consult the affected villagers and only confined themselves to consulting traditional leadership and government departments only. We are planning to engage lawyers to stop Mutagech, we need the company to consult widely with affected villagers,” said Chima.

He said the impact on Kalope dam through pollution who affect the food security of locals.

“The Kalope irrigation is one of the biggest in Matebeleland North and obviously food security and income of villagers will be affected as the dam will be polluted by mining activities, livestock and aquatic life will be seriously affected as well.”

The company is headed for a showdown with villagers who claim they were never consulted on the project and have vowed to resist evictions.

The proposed Nechenge Coal mine project is going to affect two wards of Change and Nekabandama with GWRT saying over 300 households are likely to be displaced to pave way for the venture. The special grant covers Kashika, Luseche, Diki, Bhangale and Dinde areas.

Change ward councillor, Ishmael Bakani Kwidini the company was not acting in good faith hence the resistance by the community.

“The people are apprehensive as they have no idea on the development. They were not consulted and have not been briefed on the project. The proponent has not been acting in good faith. Due to the risks associated with such an activity, I’m yet to come across any member of the community who is in support of the project.”

He added that there was a high risk of pollution and siltation of the dam which would have a direct bearing on the irrigation and the general fields and grazing area.

Mining companies issued with special mining grants have been accused of hiding behind the Covid-19 regulations to avoid carrying out extensive consultations as required by law. Another Chinese company, Beifer Investments is facing a similar predicament after villagers petitioned Parliament over the company’s failure to consult them. Initially, the tussle saw the District Development Coordinator and Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution failing to break the impasse. The company eventually went on to carry out its exploration works and is likely to start mining operations soon.

Mutagech Logistics project manager,  Donald  Nkosana said they were carrying out exploration activities in one of the areas covered by the grant.

“We want to get a physical sample of the product which is in the proposed area which the concession covers. So these are exploration activities.”

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