Mashava – A small scale mining company, Icon Alloys Chrome Mine owned by one Takunda Mujimi has invaded homesteads in Masvingo's ghost mining town of Mashava which has left locals exposed to environmental and health hazards, TellZim News can reveal.
Disgruntled Mambo Township dwellers said they fear for their lives as the company is opening pits which are more than 30 meters deep on their doorsteps.
"As you can see, our homesteads have been invaded by this mine. All these pits you see pose dangers to our lives but it seems the mine more concerned with making profits than our lives. The police are always here but we have not seen them taking action to correct the situation," said one Chipo Munjanja.
Another resident, gogo Shumba said the behavior of the company was alien in the community.
"We grew up in this mining town and we now have grandchildren and things have never been like this. No mining activities have invaded our homesteads before. I live in fear as I take care of my ten grandchildren who might fall in one of these traps around the compound.
"The company which used to exploit minerals in the past gave us jobs, took care of our environment and general upkeep of local infrastructure, not what we are seeing now. They are instead worsening the situation which turned tense after the mine closed," said gogo Shumba
In a report pushing for the mine's closure, EMA highlighted that the mine failed to obtain an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate and has further posed several dangers to the community.
"The mine does not have an EIA certificate. There has been great environmental degradation as numerous pits have been dug indiscriminately and unsustainably within homesteads. These pits endanger human lives as they are within homesteads. There is also a possibility of stagnant water pools and pits in the event that the area receives heavy downfalls," the report reads.
Deputy Minister of Mines, Fred Moyo said he would want to see mining being done in a proper manner but was not well-informed about this particular matter.
"How did those claims come into residential areas? Which came first, the claims or the homesteads? As a Ministry we say no residential stands should be pegged on top of claims and no claims should be pegged where there are residential stands. We even note that all mining operations should keep a certain distance from residential areas so am puzzled with this development," Moyo said.
EMA Provincial Director Robson Mavondo said the operations of the new miner have become a threat to locals.
"We are currently battling with this issue as families are in danger, and that I confirm. We visited the site back in April and ordered the mine to stop all operations on top of a US$500 ticket we gave them. They only paid the fine but never stopped mining.
"We went further to request Mashava police station to open a docket but no progress has been made with the case. Instead, the investigating officer, Constable Mnengerwa came to us saying we could not freeze operation because the mine had appealed but we were left with many questions," Mavondo said.
"The Environmental Management Act, Chapter 20:27 says any person who is aggrieved by any decision of EMA may, within 28 days after being notified of the decision or action of the authority concerned, appeal in writing to the Minister. It further clearly indicates that … provided that such appeal shall not suspend the operation of any order, decision or action of the authority issued by the authority," added Mavondo.
An employee at the mine said they are aware of dangers they are posing to the community though he said they have no choice since the old asbestos mine has failed to pay them for long.
"Since the mine closed, we were never formally dismissed but all of a sudden, we started facing challenges in receiving our salaries. That being the situation, we were left with no formal employment and an earning for our living thus us seeking jobs to small scale miners and ultimately endangering our community and because of this, hundreds have fled their homesteads" the mine employee said.
Efforts to get a comment from Mujimi could not materialise by the time of going to press.