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Mutare residents reject Chinese mining deal

By Clayton Masekesa | Zim Morning Post |

Residents in Dangamvura have rejected a Chinese quarry mining deal, which they said was masked in secrecy and will not bring value to the community.

Mutare City Council has leased its 6.5 hectare stand number 13415 Mutare township situated on Dangamvura Mountain to Freestone Mines – a Chinese owned Company.

The 10-year lease agreement will see Freestone Mines pay a trivial US$7 557 as annual fee to council in order to conduct its quarry stone mining operations.

Enraged residents of Mutare who attended a charged Mutare Citizen Dialogue meeting ON Accountability in Peri-Urban Mining held at a local hotel on Friday, blasted Mutare City Council and Freestone Mines for not consulting them.

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The furious residents have also accused the Chinese miner of operating without the undertaking an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Residents groups and observers have alleged that the whole process was mired in controversy and covered in dark secrets. They have called for the complete stoppage of the mining operations.

In an interview on the sidelines of the meeting, United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT) Acting Director Edison Dube said: “Council has to suspend the lease. Freestone Miners occupied the mountain without Environmental Impact Assessment (AIA). The residents feel that the mountain belongs to them and they were supposed to be consulted before any deal could have been done. Let’s respect their wishes.”

He added: “Some still feel that council must consult them on the mining development. We urge Mutare City Council to consult wider on the Dangamvura mountain development.”

Mutare resident and the president of Mutare Informal Traders Association (MITA) Itai Kariparire said: “I stand with the people in denying the Dangamvura Mountain quarry mining and if Freestone Miners need evidence of how people are against this deal, they should come to the wards for consultations and this will prove that the residents are against the mining project.”

The Director of Centre For Natural Resource and Governance Farai Maguwu said: “This engagement process (dialogue meeting) has unanimously informed the Mayor that the quarry project must not proceed. I am persuaded to think His Worship Mayor of Mutare, Clr Tandi will advise council accordingly and follow the necessary procedures to rescind the decision.”

Maguwu said the civil society groups will pursue the legal route if council fails to rescind its resolution.

As the simmering conflict between residents and Mutare City council over the leasing of Dangamvura Mountain is laid in some dark secrets, the Mutare Mayor – Blessing Tandi – has maintained that the mining of quarry will foster economic development in the city.

“We will engage the stakeholders that are the community. People are not looking on the future side of this deal. It is an investment drive that will see more than 100 people being employed. This will also increase our revenue collection as council and there will be a lot of benefits to this deal,” said Tandi.

Contacted for a comment on the latest development, the Freestone Mines director Ruoxin Qi said: “I know the statement that you have and I am sorry I do not trust you.”

“Until now, we as Freestone did not do anything in breach of contract. We did not do anything against the law. We 100 percent cooperated with the city council’s instruction,” Qi said.

“The fake news, rumour and slander on the media are all not real. Freestone will follow the Zimbabwe laws and will also always show respect to local people. We will never damage the good relationship between the two countries.”

The quarry mining investment by Fresstone Miners comes amid embarrassing exposure of the Chinese nefarious activities by various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Civil Society groups in Zimbabwe have registered total displeasure over the Chinese’s mirthless attitude towards the vulnerable communities, whom they have been treating in a manner that has been described as mostly inhumane.

In a joint statement released recently, the civil society organizations said some mining activities by the Chinese have left some deep scars in the affected communities.

“We have noted with deep concern the threats of displacements and mining projects in ecologically sensitive places around the country without any due regard for the concerns of the local people,” read the statement.

Sadly the abundance of natural resources has become the major cause for poverty, inequality, human rights abuses, environmental crimes and transitional organized crime that are prejudicing the country of billions of dollars annually and this has been going for decades,” said the civil society groups.

“Local communities have come to realize the losses they are incurring at the hands of the Chinese companies operating in their localities. It is important to note that Zimbabweans are so learned to be able to distinguish exploitative and destructive development from progressive development without having to be influenced by anyone,” the statement said.

The civil society sector urged the Zimbabwe government to openly engage the affected communities through public hearings to understand the sentiments of the citizens regarding human rights, environmental and social impacts of Chinese investments in the communities.

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