GRANITE mining in Mutoko and Murewa districts, combined with the failure by the government to take appropriate action against mining companies, is continuing to fuel human rights abuses, with specific impacts on women, a new report has revealed.
Several companies are extracting raw granite, which is used for construction, tiles and tombstones, among other purposes.
The granite has over the years been exported to South Africa, various European countries, the United States and Mozambique.
Some of the countries have been importing an estimated 90% of the granite for export to Italy and Spain, according to a report by ActionAid titled: Black Granite Mining in Zimbabwe, Human Rights Harms and their Gendered Impacts, compiled by various international mining law experts including Susie Talbot, Dr James Tsabora and Darlington Chidarara.
Various Chinese and European-linked granite-mining companies have been operating in Mutoko and Murewa for long, effecting decades of human rights abuses.
NSEC, one of the oldest companies operating in Mutoko, commenced mining in the early 1970s and its current ownership is linked to Italian shareholders.
Other firms like Zimbabwe International Quarries (ZIQ) and Quarrying Enterprises –— with local and Italian shareholders have been operating since 1995 and 1986 respectively — whilst Chinese companies that include: Jintings, Surewin Pvt Ltd, Longlui, Dingmao have maintained their presence.
While the government in August banned export of raw granite through Statutory Instrument 127 of 2022, little has been done to abate human rights abuses within the mining areas.
“The land use involved in granite mining is substantial and in Zimbabwe has involved the widespread clearing of vegetation, dumping of rubble and interference with natural river flows.
“In turn, the lives and livelihoods of communities who depend on small-scale agriculture, livestock ranching, hunting and gathering forest products, grazing pastures and local businesses are greatly impacted,” reads part of the report.
Other companies have been mining without environmental impact assessments to guide their operations, thereby continuing to effect evictions without consent of the villagers.
“We also suspect that the regulatory authorities are being paid by the mining authorities so that they do not expose them. When the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) conducts inspection visits, we are never invited, yet it’s our lands that are damaged, our rivers that are silted and polluted, our forests that are cut,” said an unnamed headman quoted in the report.
The employment structure has also been favouring men over women.
“Women generally face higher unemployment levels in the area and have turned to community agriculture to provide food for the community and sell to neighbouring markets.
“Evictions and the destruction of homes have had a disproportionate impact on women. Due to the excess use of water in granite mining and the fencing of mining sites which block traditional rural footpaths, they have been forced to travel longer distances to fetch water and firewood and to reach grazing pastures and graveyards.
“Roads are being destroyed or flattened by heavy mining company vehicles leading to reduced road levels and excessive water runoff during rainstorms. Sand is then washed into women’s gardens, ruining the crops grown to help their families survive on low wages paid in the sector,” read the report.
The mining activity has also been causing loss of lives, with children drowning in unrehabilitated pits.
The legal framework has not been protective to the villagers against the mining companies, leaving the villagers prone to abuse.
The government in August effected a ban on raw granite exports under Statutory Instrument 127 of 2022, but little has been done to curb human rights abuses by companies operating in the area.
“The significant underfunding of government departments means that regulatory inspections, monitoring and investigations generally do not take place. When they do, corruption compromises their effectiveness.
“The involvement of many senior government officials and party personnel in the granite-mining companies is also conducive to the corporate capture of government decision-making which puts corporate interests over community concerns,” reads the report.