By Kudakwashe Vhenge
FOUR Chinese nationals were attacked by artisanal miners following a misunderstanding over mining rights on the 3rd of February 2021 at Premier Estate outside Mutare.
It is reported that a group of artisanal miners was working in a tunnel at a field belonging to a Mr Zimunya when Chinese nationals from Zhong Jian Investments brought an excavator to fill the shaft, claiming that they had a permit to mine at Premier Estates.
This angered the artisanal miners who summoned their colleagues working along Mutare River and they jointly attacked the Chinese nationals using an assortment of artisanal mining tools such as crowbars, picks and shovels while sparing the operator of the excavator – a Zimbabwean national.
One of the Chinese men reportedly sustained three broken ribs, while another lost a finger as he tried to protect his face from a shovel attack. The condition of the other two is still unknown.
Police details from Penhalonga were called but by the time they arrived, the artisanal miners had dispersed. However, six people arrested in connection with the incident have since been granted $3000 bail each.
Investigations made by Bustop TV revealved that there was double awarding of the piece of land as Premier Estates, Zhong Jian Investments were granted a mining concession by the ministry of mines on farms whose owners had received offer letters from the ministry of lands,agriculture and rural settlement thereby causing a deliberate clash of interests on the parties involved.
The same Chinese nationals are accused of causing a stir in November 2020 when they allegedly used an excavator to fill a mine shaft with several underground tunnels where artisanal miners were working in, at Premier Estates.
The incident resulted in the suffocation and death of an unknown number of artisanal miners at the same place. Only two bodies had been recovered by the time the rescue operation was abruptly stopped and to date It remains unclear how many artisanal miners were underground when the shaft was closed.
In a statement seen by Bustop TV, Center for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a civil society organisation that works with communities affected by conflicts associated with the extractive industries have since castigated the incident.
The lobby group called on responsible authorities to swiftly intervene as there is growing concern over the growing tension over the Chinese nationals and Zimbabweans in the country’s mining industry.
”CNRG does not condone any form of violence as a solution. We continue to call on responsible authorities to find amicable solutions to the growing violence and conflicts within the extractive industries particularly the artisanal and small scale mining.The incident at Premier indicates the growing tension between Zimbabwean citizens and Chinese nationals who are viewed as operating above the law and with impunity.
”The Government has turned a blind eye on conflict in the mining sector. The conflicts can be attributed to the Government’s lack of transparency in granting mining titles. We call on the Government to enforce the law and come up with innovative programs to manage farm-miner conflicts as well as conflicts between artisanal miners and small scale miners. It is evident that multitudes of citizens are turning to artisanal mining for a living and the Government ought to regularise artisanal mining to avoid escalation of these conflicts with small scale miners”.
Late last year, there was a public outrage after a Chinese national shot and injured an employee five times and wounded another at the mine he runs in Gweru province, in central Zimbabwe, during a row with workers over outstanding pay.
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Society (ZELA) and other lobby groups have since called on a serious probe into the “systematic and widespread” abuse that locals face in Chinese mining operations.