Zimbabwean communities living in areas endowed with rich mineral resources say the government should ensure that companies mining these minerals should process them locally so that they may also benefit from what is being extracted and exported to various nations.
Representatives of several communities in Chiyadzwa diamond fields, Mutoko and Bikita district told a Manicaland Provincial Alternative Mining Indaba which ended Thursday that the local processing of minerals would ensure that companies are able to create thousands of jobs.
Fanuel Mafuta from Mutoko, where black granite is mined, told the indaba that companies are reaping off communities as they get high profits after exporting various minerals.
He said government attempted two years ago, without success, to tackle this issue through the formation of community share ownership schemes under the country’s black economic empowerment program.
Under the program, companies parted with millions of dollars when the Ministry of Youth and Economic Empowerment used a section of the indigenization law to set up community share ownership schemes in which funds were supposed to be channeled into local projects.
The government stopped talking about the scheme following the 2013 general elections won by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.
For Mafuta, it does not make sense that this program failed and companies continue to export minerals like black granite to China and Russia while they are wallowing in poverty.
Lovemore Mkwada from Chiadzwa diamond fields also believes they are not benefiting from local gems that fetch good prices in Belgium and other countries.
Another villager, Danmore Mudisi from Tonhora near Birchenough Bridge, noted they are always on the receiving end in mineral mining areas as their sources of water like the Odzi River have been seriously polluted through some mining activities.
Chief Marange said he is disappointed that over 600 people recently lost their jobs in diamond mining areas in his area following reports that diamonds have almost been depleted.
He is not the only one who has been devastated by mining companies that have left permanent scars on the ground in areas like Bikita, Masvingo province, which is the home of Eugenia Manjoro.
Manjoro said mining companies have left trenches and gullies that are a serious hazard to both livestock and human beings.
The two-day Manicaland provincial mining indaba was organized by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association to create dialogue between the government, business in the extractive sector and communities to reach common ground on community beneficiation on diamonds and other minerals.