BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
A LEADING resources campaigner has piled fresh pressure on government to cancel a big coal mining project in Hwange, saying Zimbabwe must swing towards eco–friendly investments.
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) said swaths of coalfields being exploited by Beifa Investments, a Chinese firm, in Hwange’s Dinde area would have significant negative implications on the community.
In a recent report, CNRG said drawbacks of the deal, the latest of many in the coal-rich Hwange area, included damage to pristine environments, water and air pollution, along with violations to local communities’ cultural rights.
There had already been an outcry that a coal mine in the region could open up avenues to fresh gaseous emissions and abate the troubles of a region that has already been affected by climate change.
The report brings out familiar issues that have been associated with Chinese mining operations across Zimbabwe including desecration of graves and the flood of toxins into rivers.
The coal-rich region has been hit by coal seam fires, which have forced Hwange Colliery Company Limited to reach out to German experts.
“For almost three years, the community of Dinde has spoken on numerous occasions and through various channels, including petitioning Parliament, but Beifa Investments continues to push ahead,” CNRG said.
“CNRG calls on the government to cancel the Dinde coal project and invest in sustainable eco-friendly projects that can uplift the Dinde community out of poverty without affecting their health and their ecosystems,” the report said.
It quotes community leaders speaking against the deal following a crucial meeting on June 17, 2022, but says the projects instead, gained momentum.
“We do not want mining here. While we have always objected to this project from the onset, Beifa Investments has…not (honoured) promises made during the exploration stage,” a community leader says in the report.
“The company did not honour the promises it made with regard to reclaiming the environment after exploration. They left open holes all over the village and to us, this was indicative of their disregard for our environmental laws,” adds the report.
It said Beifa representative at the meeting tried to convince Dinde villagers that the project would have positive spin-offs.
“They tried to convince us that the project is good for the community and promised to provide tap water for all the households in the area. However, they withheld information that just like other communities like Arda Transau, which have been provided with tap water, we will have to pay for the water. We are happy with our communal life and do not think we will afford or have the capacity to foot water bills,” another community member said.
“The coal mine will create health problems for us because it will damage our lands, displace us, and pollute our water bodies which we depend on for domestic use and our livelihoods. Moreover, coal will lead to an increase in emissions that contribute to global climate change,” a community member told CNRG.