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Pumula residents fret over proposed Chinese quarry mine

Pumula residents have expressed concern over reports that a Chinese mining company, Hualin Investments, wants to conduct quarry mining in a site located behind a secondary school in the area.

The majority of residents claimed they were not consulted about this venture and complained that mining operations ‘usually’ overseen by the Chinese were not environmentally conscious or friendly, hence their concerns.

However, Ward 17 councillor Sikhululekile Moyo says consultations were conducted while the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) noted that from the consultative reports, no objections were raised by stakeholders who included the residents.

Residents alleged their councillor had invited only a select few to attend the consultative meetings.

“We understand the Chinese were given a concession to quarry behind Pumula High school and Methodist village. But we don’t know what the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) read,” said Patrick Ndlovu.

“We need to be educated about the impact because quarry mining produces fine dust that will affect our breathing. We don’t want to end up like the (Witwatersrand Native Labour Association) WENELA workers who suffered from lung complications. Pumula North is an old suburb and there are elderly people who are already vulnerable health-wise including young children. Besides, the fine dust will also soil our clothes.”

Ndlovu also questioned whether the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education was consulted about the proposed blasting activities behind the school.

“If the mining is operated during the day, how will children learn when there is noise pollution? Trucks that collect the quarry will also be disruptive as they drive in front of the school. The company cannot say they will mine at night because how will we sleep from the noise?”

Another resident decried how their houses were built long ago and would crumble if the blasting starts.

“The blasting activities are to be carried out between the houses, that is 300 metres from houses that were built long ago, some in 1979. As it is, some of the houses are cracking from old foundations and we wonder what will happen when regular blasting occurs in the area. The houses will collapse,” said a resident who identified himself as Tshuma.

“We all know the Chinese don’t have social responsibilities, they just mine resources and leave communities with poor houses and not even repair them. We hope this does not become just another Chinese shady deal that’s benefiting a few individuals.”

In an interview with CITE, Cllr Moyo explained that Hualin Investments had applied for land from the city council properly.

Councillor Sikhululekile Moyo

“The truth is the Chinese did all the processes and the council awarded them with land.  Even though the land was awarded, it doesn’t mean the council has allowed the company to do the quarry mining. There are processes that have to be done and these are carried out through EMA and the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development,” she said.

Cllr Moyo said the conditions of the offer to the company was to get clearance from EMA and register with the Ministry of Mines.

“The EIA report from EMA would address the residents’ concerns. All these are processes that are done. I did consultations as a representative of residents and council to inform them and no hoodwinking took place. Besides peoples views differ, others will be in support while others will reject. However, the final report will come from EMA and the ministry of mines,” Cllr Moyo said.

EMA Bulawayo Provincial Manager, Sithembisiwe Ndlovu said the organisation had received consultative reports from the residents, the council and the concerned school.

“From the reports, we have there were no objections as people were happy to have jobs and were promised certain things. As EMA, we don’t consult but we verify from a sample of stakeholders who were consulted, as we can’t go to everyone but meetings were also held in peri-urban areas such as Mazwi and St Peters,” she said.

Ndlovu highlighted it was critical to monitor the company to see if they would implement what they had promised.

“As EMA we look at the mitigation factors of possible effects. Quarry mining produces a lot of dust so the company’s EIA must address that. For instance, to lessen the burden of noise when blasting there is a technology used for that. Look at Davis Granite, you rarely hear noise yet there is blasting. These are some of the factors we look at as EMA,” said the EMA official.

Ndlovu indicated Hualin Investments had satisfied the requirements but stressed it would be constantly monitored.

“Sometimes some companies present solutions that they won’t meet and say things or produce reports to make people happy that’s why monitoring is critical by the relevant authorities and residents also need to be educated about EIAs so they know what they are and not be tricked by companies,” Ndlovu said.

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