Residents blast Hwange mining firms

HWANGE residents have accused mining companies operating in their district of exploiting resources and polluting the environment without benefiting locals.

The companies are Hwange Colliery Company, Makomo Resources, Mota Angil, Hwange Coal Gassification Company, Lukosi Coking, South Mining, Chilota, Liberation Mine and Zambezi Gassification.

The residents piled accusations during a public consultative meeting here, which was only attended by Mota Angil and Hwange Coal Gassification representatives as other firms did not turn up. Dozens of residents attended the consultative meeting organised by the Centre for Natural Resources Governance in Hwange yesterday. They blamed mining companies for degrading the environment and short changing locals.

Residents contend that communities in and around Hwange Town were not enjoying dividends from the mining operations as their basic infrastructure was in tatters with the area heavily polluted and locals wallowing in poverty. Participants took turns to complain and demanded percentage earnings from mines. They bemoaned lack of commitment by the same companies to the Community Share Ownership Scheme, a programme launched in 2012 to ensure locals benefit from natural resources in their areas.

“Coal is destroying our health and polluting the environment. There should be a percentage for us locals. Their trucks have destroyed roads and we can’t even drive through,” said a participant.

Residents called on the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) to cancel licences for companies that pollute the environment.

“Recently a lot of fish died in Deka River and livestock also died. EMA should fine such companies but how is that compensating the loss? Why is EMA giving licences to companies that pollute the environment? We want accountability. We want compensation from these companies,” said another resident.

Residents alleged that all the companies in their area were opened by people from outside Matabeleland North province and were headquartered elsewhere. They said this was clearly shown by their disregard for employment of locals as the said companies were bringing workers from elsewhere. They said the companies’ corporate social responsibility was not clearly defined as there were few projects done by any of them. As a way forward, the residents demanded a system that will compel the companies to plough back to the community and force them to relocate their headquarters to Hwange so that they have an appreciation of the local environment.

They demanded a change in employment policies to give locals priority without politicising developmental issues as well as being accountable to locals.

CNRG director Mr Farai Maguwu said the state of Hwange district was disheartening considering the fact that the province was rich in resources while the community is one of the poorest in the country. He challenged residents to speak out about their grievances and demand action from their leaders.

“This was an all stakeholders’ consultative meeting where we wanted the community and companies to dialogue on one platform so that they clarify some issues.

We are happy that people expressed themselves from the heart and that’s what we want. Our only worry is that some (companies) didn’t come and we will make follow ups,” he said. - Chronicle