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Big, Small Miners Giving Villagers Raw Deal

(FILE) -- This Nov. 1, 2006 file photo shows miners digging for diamonds in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) says mining companies and some small-scale miners are abusing local communities.

Of particular concern to the association is pollution and the displacement of villagers without compensation.

ZELA legal officer Veronica Zano says her organization is increasingly getting worried by the number of reports it is getting from communities alleging big mining conglomerates, artisanal miners and even small-scale miners are abusing their rights as they go about their operations.

Speaking at a one-day workshop organized by ZELA, Zano said most villagers are suffering due to environmental degradation in the name of development with very little being done by the government to keep the mining firms in check.

Some people who have been displaced by mining concerns are yet to receive compensation.

The government, she said, needs to be vigilant and show that it cares for ordinary people whose lives are being permanently damaged by the effects of the mining operations.

Government officers, said Zano, should confront the mining giants as well as small-scale miners to ensure they adhere to the law, especially good corporate social responsibility.

Some of the mining corporations, she said, have been giving cheap handouts to displaced or affected villagers under the guise of philanthropy, a move she says must be condemned.

Wellington Takavarasha, the president of the Zimbabwe Association of Small-Scale Miners, said while responsible mining is important, many in the sector, especially artisanal miners, believe that they are viewed with contempt.

Takavarasha said there is need for a change in mindsets from both miners and communities.

He said artisanal miners will remain at the peripheral while contributing much into the economy, adding it is time the government starts giving them respect they deserve.

He claimed that his organization has close to 1.5 million members.

Mutuso Dhliwayo, a social commentator, told participants that clear guidelines from the government are needed on how and what is expected from mining firms in the communities they work in.