Source: Cam & Motor’s return haunts settlers | The Financial Gazette July 6, 2017
GRAFFITI decorates the wall of an abandoned building opposite mining giant RioZim’s Cam & Motor administrative offices.
There is a sketch of a shirtless peasant farmer crucified on a giant dollar sign with the caption: “We are not poor; they made us poor.”
A second drawing portrays a river which has a built-up wasteland on one bank and a verdant countryside with flowers in bloom on the other.
The graffiti, whose originators are unknown but clearly protesting the presence of Zimbabwe’s mining conglomerate, whose mining activities in the vibrant town of Kadoma have unsettled residents.
Nearly five decades after RioZim’s forerunner Rio Tinto mothballed Kadoma’s Cam & Motor mine, once the largest producer of gold in Zimbabwe having produced over 150 tonnes of gold in its entire life, the mining company returned in 2015 and started blasting its way to 1,3 tonnes of gold in the past two years.
However, people living in the shadow of the mine’s operation, who bought land in the Eiffel Flats residential area straddling the mining claims, are distraught.
Weekly dynamite blasts to expose the yellow-white gold bearing rock that gives the land there its incredible value have bred conflict and controversy.
Property owners are bitter, but RioZim is determined.
Cam & Motor produced 856 kg of gold in 2016 alone, while the company’s other gold operation at Renco, Masvingo, produced 712 ks.
RioZim has since added a third gold mining operation to its portfolio — Dalny Mine in Chakari.
Thousands of Eiffel Flats residents and business people are battling to salvage the situation, but appear to be fighting a losing battle.
Some of the mine’s many huge open cast mines look like volcanic craters with one such crater now within metres of people’s houses.
A road which used to connect Kadoma and Mhondoro communal lands has long been blasted out of existence, cutting off the Mhondoro community.
Another long, deep open trench cuts across a lush forest stretching in the distance.
An agreement to maintain a 90-metre distance from the area’s hospital seems to have been disregarded as excavation inches into the Eiffel Flats Hospital yard.
“We are no longer able to co-exist with the mine. They were supposed to mine from at least 90 metres away, but they are now blasting on the edge of the hospital premises. The blasting raises a lot of chocking dust and thundering noises which patients are not comfortable with,” said the hospital’s director, Anesu Kusangaya.
Despite RioZim having been issued with an environmental impact assessment (EIA) certificate, little evidence on the ground shows that the EIA is being adhered to.
The Environmental Management Act (2002) compels mining companies to observe the triangle of sustainable development concept and appreciate the importance of the delicate balance between the environment, social and economic factors.
Instead of fighting the mining giant, the residents have since formed a committee to persuade RioZim management to expedite the process of relocating them.
But according to the committee’s chairman, Mind Masuko, persistent efforts to engage the company have yielded no result.
“We have given up on engaging them. We are just awaiting our fate,” he said.
“I have never heard of open cast mining in an urban area. We have tried to engage EMA (the Environmental Management Agency) and the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, but they have told us that there is nothing they can do because government wants gold,” said a retired police officer who used his pension pay out to buy a house which, like the others nearby, is cracking due to the blasting at the mine.
For fifty-nine-year-old Sophia Masuku, the situation is tragic because she has to carry her disabled son Victor, aged 37, every time basting happens.
Too poor to afford a wheelchair, she has approached the mine’s management whose promise to donate one has not been honoured.
“I have now resigned from carrying him out. Now I stay in the house with him when they blast so that if the house collapses, we can die together,” said the visibly distressed widow.
RioZim corporate affairs executive, Wilson Gwatiringa, however, denied knowledge of the residents’ concerns.
“We are not aware of any incidents or problems arising from our operations in the Eiffel Flats community. We have a fully-fledged health and safety professional team that is resident at our Cam & Motor mine that constantly monitors our operations to ensure that safety standards are observed at all times for the wellbeing of our employees and surrounding communities,” he said.
“Our operations are done in accordance with the laws and regulations of the country that govern mining activities. However, we are always open to engagement with members of the communities in our areas of operation with a view to maintaining good relationships at all times,” Wilson added.
He said while the company was apologetic for the delays in relocating people, its relocation plan, to be implemented in phases, would soon be expedited.
Mines and Mining Development Minister, Walter Chidhakwa, who officially opened the mine in 2015, said he had not been alerted of the challenges being faced by the Kadoma community.
“I haven’t seen such complaints. They should send their concerns to the provincial mines director who should be able to handle the issues at that level. They can only reach my office if there is an appeal,” Chidhakwa said.
Documents in the possession of the Financial Gazette, however, show that letters of complaint have been written and acknowledged by the Ministry of Mines.
On June 20 last year, the residents wrote to a chief government mining engineer expressing their concerns. They copied the letter to Mashonaland West’s provincial mining director, who is said to have subsequently sent officials to the mine sometime last year, but nothing was done since then.
“They came here and did their inspections last year and that was the last time we saw them,” Masuko said.
That may not change, given government’s desperation to earn over $3 billion from the mineral and metals exports this year.