From Leonard Ncube in Hwange
PEOPLE from Hwange and surrounding areas have urged the Government to indigenise all coal mining companies operating in their area as locals are not benefiting while the environment suffers.
Contributing during a public meeting organised by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy at Lwendulu Hall in the coal mining town yesterday, participants accused coal mining companies of taking advantage of them while polluting the environment and causing the death of livestock.
Residents, former mine workers, business people, councillors and villagers from Hwange and the surrounding communities were among those who attended the meeting.
Mr Casper Ndlovu from Hwange town said the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill should mandate Government to incorporate locals in mining Boards.
“The whole problem starts with lack of representation. If we were represented at the top, our views would be considered. We want this Bill to ensure that all Boards are made up of 50 percent locals, the same way Government calls for 51 percent ownership of every foreign company investing in the country,” he said.
Mr Albert Pisimayi said the Bill should empower locals to exploit minerals in their localities.
“A majority of people you see here have worked in mines but never benefited. What pains us is that while we abide by laws, most small scale mines especially for gold, have been invaded by people from other provinces who do illegal mining.
“We are poor because we are not benefiting from these resources and some marriages have even broken up because of poverty,” said Mr Pisimayi.
Participants bemoaned the extent of pollution in rivers such as Deka.
Another participant, Mrs Rosemary Shoko, said the Mines Ministry must decentralise licensing.
“We should decentralise licensing from Harare. We only wake up and see people excavating on our farms and we can’t even stop them because they say they have licences from Harare,” said Mrs Shoko.
She said licensing fees must be affordable to locals and the Bill should ensure that any miner wishing to prospect in an area should first engage the community.
“Prospectors should engage communities so that they understand our area and know our challenges. Some of the mines have started scholarships but none of our children have benefited as they choose from their own areas.
“Our farms have been destroyed and we stare perennial drought because of that. Mining is a life threatening job and as we speak some people are now disabled while the environment has lost,” said Mrs Shoko.
The participants expressed concern that even employment opportunities were eluding them as companies bus in people from their places of origin.
They complained about roads especially the once tarred Deka Road which joins Hwange and Victoria Falls through Jambezi which is now impassable.
Hwange Local Board Councillor Wilson Maphosa urged the Government to engage local leaders such as traditional leaders and District Administrators before issuing licences for any concession.
The Portfolio Committee’s chairperson, Cde Simbarashe Mudarikwa, who is also Member of Parliament for Uzumba Constituency, said so far their meetings have been well attended with critical issues raised.