Midlands Correspondent | Chronicle
MOST Chinese companies involved in mining activities are violating the country’s mining laws and are causing severe land degradation with no due punishment imposed on them, an official has said.
Responding to questions from journalists after touring some areas in Kwekwe and Mberengwa where either chrome or gold mining activities were taking place on Monday, the Environmental management Agency Board chairman, Professor Sheunesu Mpepereki said the board would soon summon some of the Chinese mining companies especially those operating in Mberengwa for breaching environmental laws willy-nilly.
He said most of them were operating without carrying out the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures.
“What these Chinese companies, especially those in Zvishavane and Mberengwa, are doing, is a direct violation of the provisions of environment management procedures. They are causing severe land degradation and are conducting their mining operations without following the required and recommended procedures like the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is mandatory before any mining activity takes place,” he said.
Prof Mpepereki said the Chinese companies, especially those mining chrome in Mberengwa’s Neta area, would be summoned before the EMA board for causing severe land degradation in local villagers’ fields.
He also blamed the local villagers for leasing their pieces of land to the Chinese, who were now wreaking havoc in the area.
“As the EMA board, we are saddened by the way most of the Chinese are conducting their chrome mining activities in total disregard of the country’s laws and provisions. These people (Chinese) are cheating hunger stricken villagers in Mberengwa to surrender their land by entering into dubious agreements. The villagers are being cheated into selling their land in the manner our ancestors were tricked into signing the Rudd Concession that led to them surrendering the country to the British,” he said.
Prof Mpepereki said Mberengwa villagers, who sold their land to the Chinese, should ignore their lease agreements and instead come up with environmental management committees at ward level.
He said the committees would work closely together with EMA officials in protecting their pieces of land.
“The villagers should not sell their land to these miners, who are going around luring them with cash. This has caused severe land degradation and as EMA we will enlist the services of the police to effect arrest on these Chinese,” said Prof Mpepereki.
While most villagers are busy cultivating their fields following the heavy rains that pounded most parts of the country, the situation is different in Mberengwa’s Neta area. The villagers in Neta have no fields to cultivate after they sold their pieces of land to the Chinese, who are carrying out chrome-mining operations in the area.
A tour of the fields in Mberengwa by the EMA board proved that the fields were turned into huge gullies, as the Chinese used earth moving machines to mine chrome. Responding to questions from members of the EMA board during a tour of the area on Monday, the villagers said they were forced to sell their land to the Chinese owing to severe drought that had affected the area in the past five years.
“I decided to sell my piece of land for $1 000 to the Chinese, who wanted to carry out chrome mining activities in the area because I was facing starvation. I am a widow and could not refuse the cash when I was approached,” said one elderly woman, who only identified herself as Mrs Magura.
Another villager, Mr Robert Maphosa said they were duped by the Chinese to “sell” their pieces of land after being convinced that they were only working for a short period of time on their fields.
“The Chinese told us that they would rehabilitate our fields soon after extracting chrome in our fields, but to our surprise, they have since moved to other areas, leaving huge gullies in our fields. The situation is so bad to the extent that we cannot cultivate our land. We have no land to cultivate as we speak and it is painful when it is raining like this,” he said.