Protect us from Chinese miners, Hwange community pleads with Govt

Residents of the coal mining town of Hwange and surrounding communities are not happy with the conduct of some Chinese coal mining companies operating in the area and reportedly violating labour laws and degrading the environment and infrastructure.

Hwange has more than 10 coal mining and processing companies and residents endure dust, air, noise and water pollution from the mines.

Some have raised concerns and various fora but with no help yet from authorities as the challenges continue.

The community now wants a law that protects local people and the environment.

Speaking at a consultative meeting conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development in Hwange, residents said there is a need for a law that can protect the interests of the community.

Parliament is consulting citizens towards crafting a Mines Bill which seeks to shape the future of mining activities in the country.

Issues raised by the community include environmental degradation, pollution, failure by mining companies to plough back to the community, destruction of infrastructure such as roads, exploitation and victimisation of labour.

“Companies should be made to sign memoranda of understanding with the community committing themselves to contributing to community development,” said Public Nkomo.

Lorraine Mubaira said there should be a law that follows up on companies to do what they would have promised to do while seeking for mining grants.

What pains the Hwange community mostly is that most companies come with special permits granted to them in Harare without consulting or engaging locals who end up being displaced by mining activities.

“We want a law that binds investors and companies to own up to what they promise in their environmental impact assessment reports so that we protect our environment and benefit from investments in our areas. Workers are underpaid and harassed at work and these Chinese would tell you that they are protected,” said Mubaira.

Petersen Ncube said the new Bill should recognise the rights of people and protect the environment by not allowing companies to move to new sites before they rehabilitate old mines.

Hwange councillor Theresa Mutale said a certain percentage of revenue should be ploughed back to the community.

“Companies must be compelled to set aside at least 15 percent of revenue they generate from their mining activities for the community. Employing people alone is not sustainable,” she said.

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