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Workers ‘dying’ every week at Scott Sakupwanya’s mining company

Unsafe mining practices by Better Brands Mining Company, owned by prominent gold dealer Scott Sakupwanya at gold-rich Redwing Mine in Penhalonga are reportedly resulting in miners dying “every week”.

Redwing Mine has played a major role in economic stabilisation and domestic resource mobilisation over the years, producing 1.1 million ounces of gold between 1966 and 2004, according to Metallon Corporation.

But Executive Director at Centre for National Resource Governance, Farai Maguwu has revealed that the model of mining currently employed by Better Brands is against responsible mining tenets and it has resulted in workers dying almost every week.

Last week, two Better Brands employees reportedly at Rezende Mine at Redwing died in underground flood waters. This, according to Maguwu, is not the first time.

He said underground mining accidents are continuing at the mine due to unsafe mining practices characterised by no safety protocols by the controversial company.

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“….. Since they started operating dozens of their employees have died due to unsafe mining practices,” Maguwu said.

“Two days ago two of its employees at the Rezende mine at Redwing died in underground flood waters. Bodies retrieved, on way to Muchena and Nyamajura respectively for burial.”

He further told Nehanda Radio that CNRG had petitioned the Ministry of Mines to intervene and stop Better Brands operations in Penhalonga before more lives are lost. The environmental expert also shared correspondence between the line Ministry and CNRG.

“We reached out to the Ministry of Mines with a petition to stop the operations of Better Brands before more lives are lost. We did that on 20 July 2022.

“And on the 17th of August, the Ministry responded and said they are looking into the issue and they will get back to us after getting feedback from all the relevant parties. So, we are still waiting. We sent them a reminder just recently,” he said.

In its letter to the Ministry, CNRG pointed out that the environmental destruction unfolding in Penhalonga was now beyond redemption. It further stated that artisanal mining was not supervised by experienced mining engineers and other technical experts.

“An Environmental Impact Assessment was never done for the new model of mining introduced by Better Brands and subsequently no environmental management plan is in place to mitigate environmental damage,” read the letter.

“Better Brands entered into an unwritten production sharing agreement with sponsors and artisanal miners. Better Brands offers gold milling and buying services to the sponsors and artisanal miners. In turn, the sponsors and artisanal miners get paid an amount equivalent to 40% of the gold they produce.

“Some unprocessed sands accumulated from milling are transported to Midlandsfor leaching and the gold recovered is not declared to Redwing Mine. The model of mining employed by Better Brands is against responsible mining tenets in the whole gold mining supply chain.

“The environmental destruction unfolding in Penhalonga is now beyond redemption. Artisanal mining is not supervised by experienced mining engineers and other technical experts.”

This, according to CNRG, has led to increased mine shaft accidents, and at least 5 people are dying in these shafts every month.

“Most of the fatalities go unreported. The surge in the number of artisanal miners has led to an increase in violence and is threatening the general peace of residents in Penhalonga. In October 2021 there were violent clashes between Better Brands miners and the Penhalonga residents,” read the letter.

On the 17th of August 2022, the Ministry acknowledged the letter and promised to provide feedback once all parties are engaged.

“The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development acknowledges receipt of your letter dated 20 July 2021 the contents which have been noted.

“The Ministry wishes to advise your good office that has engaged the involved parties on resolving the issues highlighted in your letter and will provide feedback once all issues have been resolved,” read the letter signed by one Dr. Eng. M. M. Manyuchi, Chief Director of Mining Development at the Ministry.

In July last year, a 35-page report titled Zimbabwe’s Disappearing Gold: The Case of Mazowe and Penhalonga, CRNG claimed that Zanu-PF councillor Sakupwanya was allegedly being sponsored by powerful political elites to buy gold on their behalf in key belts while promoting Illicit financial flows (IFFs) responsible for leakages of an estimated 3 tonnes of gold, valued at approximately US$157 million every month, around US$1,9 billion per year.

It further stated that a strong network had been created in different parts of the country, in particular Mazowe and Penhalonga controlling artisanal mining.

It was established that gold dealer Sakupwanya, who is part of Zanu PF’s fundraising committee, was being sent by political leaders to buy gold on behalf of them while controlling a network of more than 1000 artisanal miners.

Contacted for a comment, Sakupwanya did not respond to the messages sent or calls by Nehanda Radio.

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