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Chinese granite miner seeks to evict Murehwa villagers

By Alex Mutero

DOZENS of villagers in Murehwa, Mashonaland East province, face eviction after Government gave a Chinese firm a special mining grant to extract black granite on land that includes graveyards, grazing land and even school premises.

Heijin, which claims to be owned by three indigenous Zimbabweans and a Chinese national, was only incorporated under Zimbabwe’s laws in June this year and has already engaged a consultant to undertake an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Heijin recently wrote to Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe (UMP) rural district council (RDC) chief executive officer Murandu Kanganga requesting to undertake the EIA, the Zimbabwe Independent reports.

The letter, dated July 2, 2021, reads: “Heijin Mining Company is a holder of two black granite mining blocks namely Kaseke (1256 BMT) and Chibvi (ME1253BM), which are situated within Uzumba Reserve in Kaseke village of Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe District. Proposed is black granite mining, cutting and polishing on the two mining blocks.

“Our project being of national value and interest, we do understand the importance of working in harmony with relevant and key stakeholders, exchange of ideas as a guarantee to sustainable mining operations.”

Edzai Ndemera, Emmanuel Ndemera, Alec Mutizwa, Dillia Chingwena and Libo Zhongjian Resources are listed as the owners of Heijin. Libo Zhongjian Resources holds a 70% stake.

But Murehwa councillor Zvondai Marowa is adamant that the project cannot be allowed to continue.

Marowa wrote to Mines minister Winston Chitando, saying the black granite mining operations will emit dust and other emissions “affecting nearby schools, households and water bodies”.

“This letter seeks to object to granite mining in Nenzou Village Uzumba Ward 14 under Chief Nyajina. Heijing is a holder of two mining blocks, namely Kaseke and Chibvi. The blocks cover an area of more than 300 hectares,” the letter by Marowa reads.

“We object to the mining project because the covered area is our grazing land, more than 39 households are inside the blocks and are going to be affected and we have graves of our loved ones within the pegged area.”

Dated August 23, the letter further highlights that villagers were opposed to the plan because it would desecrate the villagers’ religious sites.

“The area in question is also used for rainmaking rituals, so we believe tempering with it will affect us as a community,” reads the letter.

Headman Kaseke, in a letter addressed to Minister of State for Mashonaland East province Appolonia Munzverengwi and Chitando, emphasised that the community was opposed to the planned project.

“Reference is made to the movement in and out of our area by ‘potential investors’ whose mining claims will result in the displacement or relocation of people from the area,” the letter dated August 24 reads.

“Legally, it is prudent to note that government is under both a statutory and constitutional duty to engage the community before any adverse action is taken. In the case of Kaseke and Chibvi, relevant authorities did not do this as no one consulted the community as far as we know.”

Both Minister Chitando and Heijin were not available for comment.

This comes as another bruising fight has erupted pitting villagers in Mutoko and Shanghai Haoying Mining Investments that was given claims to mine black granite.

While Murehwa and Mutoko are endowed with quality granite which has built world-class structures in Europe, the communities are impoverished and have nothing to show for the valuable resource.

Granite makes up 1.6 percent of Zimbabwe’s total exports, far below gold (32 percent of the country’s total exports) and raw tobacco (14 percent).

In 2016, the country exported US$45.5 million in granite, according to data collected by the Observatory of Economic Complexity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fifty-six percent of that granite goes to Mozambique, and the rest goes to Italy, Belgium, Spain and other countries.

From there, black granite winds up all over the world, including in high-end buildings such as Denmark’s Royal Danish Library, the facade of which is built entirely from the stone.

People in Murehwa and Mutoko say they don’t see any benefits from the granite. The area’s roads are mostly gravel, save for the commercial centre, and even that section has just a few shops, a business center and fuel stations. Most of the area lacks electricity.

Not only does the community not benefit from granite mining, but the industry damages local roads, says Emmanuel Nyoka, a Mutoko resident. – Zimbabwe Voice/GPJ/Independent□

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