Leonard Ncube in Hwange
Lack of respect for human rights, right to ownership of land and respect of the environment are some of the issues raised by Hwange residents against some coal mining companies operating in the area Matabeleland North coal mining town.
They were contributing during a consultation meeting by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development which took place at Edmund Davis Hall in Hwange.
This Bill will replace the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05] that has been in existence since 1961, and seeks to, among other things, change the composition of the Mining Affairs Board and to clarify and extend its functions, formalize the switch in title from “Mining
Commissioner” to “Provincial Mining Director, establish the Mining Cadastre Register and Registry, ensure uniformity and simplicity of mining titles, the pegging of secondary reefs and the holding of extra-lateral rights are abolished, regulate the activities of prospectors more closely and confine their activities to specific areas and require holders of mining rights to work their claims rather than allowing them to preserve their title by paying annual fees.
There have been conflicts in the mining sector especially with regards to leases, title deeds and claims over the years and citizens believe a new mining law will address these issues.
Participants at the meeting expressed concern that mining investors do not respect rights of locals as they start operations without consulting them and exploit resources without ploughing back to the community.
The residents highlighted lack of respect for human rights and dignity and violation of labour laws especially by the Chinese companies as they either underpay workers or hire and fire those that complain about poor working conditions.
There is a serious air, land and water pollution in Hwange and residents are convinced there is no monitoring system in the form of a law to compel the miners to rehabilitate land and prevent pollution.
Residents said they want a law that protects communities from damage to the environment, pollution and destruction of infrastructure.
They said, currently mining companies in Hwange were negligently discharging waste into water bodies and the environment causing pollution and death of aquatic life and livestock, as well as destruction of roads.
“Parliament should craft laws that protect Zimbabweans and their rights. The law should empower citizens to tell investors to respect human rights and protect the environment,” said Shava, a young person from Hwange.
Christina Nkomo, said investors should be mandated to invest in infrastructural development before they start mining operations as opposed to exploiting resources and leaving the community poor.
George Moyo, an independent mine surveyor said clarifying the composition of the Mining Affairs Board and functions of experts, will help sanitize the mining sector and reduce conflicts.
He said, use of technology is key in achieving goals through ensuring transparency.
The Portfolio Committee chair Edmond Mkaratigwa who is the Legislator for Shurugwi South said empowerment of communities by mining companies was a general concern in all communities that they had consulted. He said citizens want Parliament to help end challenges and conflict through respect of locals and ploughing back to the community.