EDITORIAL COMMENT: Mining firms must prioritise host communities

RECOMMENDATIONS by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Indigenisation and Empowerment for the amendment of the country’s indigenisation law to insert a requirement that compels mining firms to contribute at least 25 percent of pledges to Community Share Ownership Trusts to facilitate their speedy set up is spot on and should be implemented as soon as possible.

This is important given numerous reports of mining firms resisting or reneging on payment of their contributions to Community Share Ownership Trusts.

The matter is particularly urgent for Mudzi and Mutoko where the committee was reviewing progress. Despite hauling millions of tonnes of granite from Mudzi and Mutoko after desecrating landmark hills, mining companies have made millions of dollars, but have done very little to improve the lot of villagers in these areas.

Reports from the two areas indicate that impoverished villagers have over the years been left counting their losses due to the destructive nature of mining activities in their areas.

The Environmental Management Agency has raised concern over deforestation, noise pollution, destruction of farm land through rock waste depositing in the fields, cracks in houses through rock blasting effects, and destruction of mountains that have been caused by mining activities in the two areas.

Such wanton destruction cannot be allowed to go on with no benefit accruing to the villagers. It should be borne in mind that minerals by their nature are a finite resource and as such communities living within mining areas should benefit from the resource while it’s still available.

So we fully support the recommendations made by the committee. Mining companies should not be allowed to have their cake and eat it, Government, as the custodian of all mineral resources in the country, should throw down the gauntlet and ensure that communities start enjoying the benefits that should accrue to them.

It is time mining companies are brought to account. There are a lot of communities that are crying foul over CSOTs after mining companies failed to honour their pledges.

One of the most notable is in Chiadzwa where President Mugabe was presented with a cheque for $1,5 million during the launch of the Zimunya-Marange CSOT, but only $400 000 was made available.

There are about 59 CSOTs that were launched by the President across the country and a good number have done very little because of lack of funds due to a failure by companies to honour their pledges yet studies have shown that if properly implemented CSOTs can be viable options for development of communities in mining areas.

A case in point is the Zvishavane Community Share Ownership Trust, which in 2013 spent $2,1 million, just over half of the revenue received from Mimosa mining company under the empowerment law to build critical infrastructure in the district. The Trust constructed a clinic and electrified several schools. The trust has also constructed classroom blocks across the district for $845 000.

It’s time for the gloves to come off, the interests of a few mining companies should not be allowed to supersede those of whole communities. It is time that mining companies contribute meaningfully to the development of areas that they operate in.

The onus is for Government to ensure this through implementing recommendations such as the one made by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Indigenisation and Empowerment.

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