SHURUGWI: One of the three mining giants awarded a special alluvial mining grant by the cabinet in a pilot project stands accused of abusing the privilege through engaging in illegal mining activities at the banks of the Mutebekwi river in a development that is threatening the environment.
ENR Private Limited is one of the three mining giants awarded a special alluvial mining grant by the cabinet in a pilot project in April this year, giving them powers to de-silt rivers and process extracted ore. The company has maintained that its operations are above board amid the growing environmental hazard in the area.
A follow-up visit to the Mutebekwi river, however, indicates that illegal mining activities are still happening at the edge of the river beyond the de-siltation exercise. The community is now up in arms with the Indians fronted firm.
Chairperson of the watching committee, Mutebekwi Development Committee Trynos Runyowa says the community has not known peace since the mining firm began operations.
“We were told these guys were granted permission to come and do de-siltation here. We have no problem with a government directive to that effect. What is disturbing us is that they just came without engaging us in the community. This river was a source of our livelihood. As you can see, over there where there is their bulldozer was one of our members’ garden. Now tell me how that person is supposed to survive going forward. It’s a pity that such things are happening. They should have sat down with us and we could have come up with a way forward that doesn’t disturb the community. Where they set up their plant in someone’s farm which they just took over imagine,” he said.
A further investigation carried out by CommuTalk, also indicate that some unnamed generals are part of the syndicate being fronted by the Indians in the mining operations, which makes the team untouchable.
“There is a Colonel who came with a gun and threatened to shoot us if we resisted their operations. Is this why we went to war? I am prepared to die because kusiri kufa ndekupi? They are bringing guns to unarmed civilians who are trying to earn a living in this river is that even normal. We are appealing to authorities to treat this case with the urgency it deserves,” said an affected villager Naume Nani.
Mutebekwi river feeds into Runde river, and the mining activities are now affecting activities downstream.
In earlier reports, villagers have alleged that miners sometimes put a wall across the river to stop the free flow of water to carry their mining activities.
The general health of the people around the Msasa area has also been greatly affected as a result of the mining activities.
A village health worker, Charity Gomo says people used to drink water from the river but now have nowhere to get such services.
“There are no boreholes in this area. The reason why people should have been consulted is such that we could have advocated for the sinking of three boreholes to serve this community. The water in Mutebekwi was so clean that people would fetch it and boil it for drinking and cooking purposes. They could also wash along the river. Now the mining activities have seen the water becoming dirty and unusable. What should the community do now?” she said.
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is also on record saying they are finding the situation hard to tackle.
“It’s an issue that we have tried to tackle as a department. We have engaged the law enforcement agency on several raids but the people continue to come to the river.
“We have reached a point where we are saying the situation is not easy to deal with. The area is too rich in gold deposits and as such attracts a lot of illegal activities much to the detriment of the community at large,” said EMA in a recent comment.
ENR- CEO Mahek Shah says they are doing everything above board, “We got a license to do alluvial mining through processing silt that we get from the de-siltation exercise. No one was ever evicted from their farm through force. We have great plans for the community where we want to build a dip tank, help in the building of classroom blocks as well as sink the community some boreholes,” he said.
Illegal mining activities have become a major source of worry in the mineral-rich Midlands province resulting in unending disputes between miners and farmers.
Moreso, bigwigs have often being accused of going beyond the rule of law in the quest for gold a development that has resulted in great environmental harm in most gold-rich communities