Environmental crisis unfolds in Penhalonga

SYDNEY SAIZE IN MUTARE

Mutare-based civil society organisations (CSOs) say the illegal random open cast gold mining at Redwing Mine in Penhalonga has brought environmental damage in the area, Business Times can report.

One of the prominent companies undertaking random surface mining around Redwing Mine, which is located about 20 kilometres northeast of the city of Mutare, is Prime Royal Africa (PRA) and several other syndicates are also involved.

PRA is said to have been contracted by Redwing, owned by troubled gold miner, Metallon Corporation, who are the owners of the concession, to set up mining syndicates and exploit shallow open pits targeting reef outcrops across the 1254 hectares of Redwing concession on its behalf.

Redwing ceased operations more than three years ago and is currently under care and maintenance.

There are, however, syndicates, believed to be operating with protection from certain powerful politicians and chancers, who have invaded the area in search of the yellow metal.

Invaders have gone further and have destroyed fields belonging to local peasant farmers, who are now living in abject poverty because they no longer have other sources of income.

It has, however, emerged that PRA has not obtained an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate to undertake surface mining activities at the concession, which has resulted in rampant deforestation and wanton destruction of the environment.

James Mupfumi, the director of an environmental rights lobby group, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), one of the civil society organisations against the move told Business Times that Redwing engaged PRA, which in turn sub-contracted artisanal miners.

According to Section 97 of the Environmental Management Act, all mining companies are supposed to undertake an EIA before commencement of mining activities. 

This is not the case with PRA, according to CRD.

Mupfumira said Redwing, is understood to hold a valid environmental management certificate for underground mining only.

Mupfumi said: “For the past 10 months PRA’s open pits mining activities at Redwing have extensively damaged the environment and increased vulnerability of the community to landslides, flooding and hazardous contamination of water among other environmental concerns.

“Mining operations are also dominated by issues of mineral leakages, undeclared mineral sales to Fidelity Printers (and Refiners, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, which is the country’s sole buyer and marketer of gold),” Mupfumi told Business Times.

He added: “(There are also issues of) undeclared (or under declared) remittances to local authorities such as Mutasa Rural District Council, National Social Security Authority, Chamber of Mines and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, among others.”

Repeated efforts to get comment from Redwing Mining Company and PRA were futile as officials of the two companies declined to comment on the matter.

Penhalonga Residents Association chairperson Weston Makoni said the community has witnessed a sharp increase in crime, physical violence, sexual abuse of young girls, prostitution and spread of diseases by artisanal miners sub-contracted by PRA.

“Local authorities are reluctant to hold PRA to account for its mining activities at Redwing mine for fear of victimisation (by political elites in the Manicaland Province),” Makoni said.

“Similarly, the local EMA cannot stop gold mining activities of a Chinese Mining Company, Zhong Jian, in Mutare River along Premier estates despite government ban on river bed mining,” the CSOs said in a statement gleaned by Business Times.

Mupfumi told Business Times that due to increased fear and intimidation on regulatory authorities by political elites, it took EMA eight months to order a shutdown of PRA illegal mining activities at Redwing following the intervention of the Joint Operation Command (JOC), the supreme organ coordinating state security in Zimbabwe.

But, PRA are back at the concession.

“Redwing Mine has renewed the mining lease for PRA to continue with surface mining despite the failure by PRA to comply with both national laws and Redwing’s policy on Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality requirements.

“Redwing had not done due diligence on PRA and two more investors, Better Brands and Proper Deck, to ascertain their capacity to undertake sustainable mining activities at Redwing,” the CSOs noted.

It is understood that RMC has applied for the EIA to regulate the activities. There is, however, outcry over its continued engagement of PRA, which had not fully complied with an order from EMA to stop mining activities at Redwing.

“RMC is conducting an EIA public consultation process for PRA to continue with surface mining activities at Redwing, despite the failure by PRA to rehabilitate extensive damages already impacted on the environment,” CSOs said. fffffffffffffff

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