By Romeo Takundwa
Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) has called on government to stop all the artisanal gold mining activities at Redwing Mine and commission a thorough investigation into the underlying causes of the recent clashes between Penhalonga residents and scores of artisanal miners working under the Prime Royal Africa on Friday last week.
Tension had been brewing since Prime Royal Africa entered into a seven-year lease agreement with Redwing Mine which permitted the former to carry out alluvial mining in Tsvingwe and Penhalonga.
The company is alleged to have brought hundreds of artisanal miners from all over the country who operate through a complex system that include various ‘sponsors’ majority of whom are politicians and politically connected businesspeople.
Locals complained that their fields are being dug up and rendered unusable. Pits were also being dug along the roads, less than the 450 meters stipulated in the Mines and Minerals Act.
The entire Penhalonga area has become an ecological disaster and things reached a boiling point last Friday when the community mobilized and confronted the hundreds of artisanal miners in the area, demanding that they leave Penhalonga with immediate effect.
According to sources privy to the incident, they also accused them of committing environmental crimes and moral decadence in the community.
A report of the incident gleaned by this publication indicated that scores of villagers involved in the skirmishes were arrested after police had come in to halt the clashes using teargas and warning shots.
Two people were reportedly injured whilst some of those arrested were charged with inciting public violence.
“Two people were injured and property yet to be evaluated was damaged during the clash. The feuding parties were quelled by the Zimbabwe Republic Police officers who used tear gas and fired warning shots to contain the situation before apprehending 22 locals.
“Some of the arrested were picked from their homes. Of the arrested, fifteen were released without any charge in the morning of Saturday October the 2nd while the other seven were taken to Mutare Magistrates Court.
Among the seven, two were charged with inciting public violence while the other five were accused of involvement in public violence. The seven were summoned to appear in court on the 21st of October 2021, it read.
To this end, CNRG, a civil society organisation whose mandate is to promote good governance of natural resources particularly minerals has urged the government to attend to the environmental hazards created by Prime Royal Africa in Penhalonga.
It also urged the government to demand that the company rehabilitates the land it has destroyed to enable locals to continue with their normal way of life.
Of late the country has seen a surge in conflicts between local communities and miners whose operations are reported to be infringing into the daily livelihoods of villagers.
Experts have advised authorities to ensure community involvement through consultation before any mining ventures as well as strengthen mining dispute resolution whenever they arise.