…Five miners dying each month
…Ministers alerted to crisis
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ally Scott Sakupwanya’s company Better Brands (Private) Limited’s operations at Redwing Mine in Penhalonga is under the spotlight amid concerns over gold leakages and poor health and safety practices, The NewsHawks has established.
In a letter to Mines minister Winston Chitando, Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) executive director Farai Maguwu raised concerns ranging from economic malpractices, environmental degradation and loss of lives due to avoidable accidents exposing the lack of adherence to lawful mining. The letter is also copied to Manicaland provincial affairs minister Nokuthula Matsikenyere and Tourism and Environment minister Nqobizitha Ndlovu.
This also comes as pressure groups want the parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Mining Development to open investigations into operations at the mine amid a decline in the gold Redwing Mine used to deliver to Fidelity Refiners and Printers in the past.
Illegal artisanal miners commonly known as maShurugwi have invaded the gold fields which span tens of hectares of land where they now mop up the precious metal and sell it on the parallel market.
In his letter dated 20 July 2022, Maguwu raised several issues, including the need to probe the gold-mining supply chain and expose possible leakages.
“An Environmental Impact Assessment was never done for the new model of mining introduced by Better Brands and subsequently no environmental management plan is in place to mitigate environmental damage,” Maguwu wrote.
“The model of mining employed by Better Brands is against responsible mining tenets in the whole gold mining supply chain,” Maguwu added.
“A serious environmental crisis is unfolding in Penhalonga as a result of artisanal mining. Artisanal mining is not supervised by experienced mining engineers and other technical experts. This has led to increased mine shaft accidents and at least five people dying in these shafts every month. Most of the fatalities go unreported.”
He also said due to the opaque operations at the mine, the general peace of residents is now under threat due to violence by artisanal miners.
“The manner in which mining activities are being conducted at Redwing Mine will adversely affect the achievement of US$12 billion mining economy by 2023,” the civil society activist added and called for intervention from the ministers.
He said there was a need for Redwing Mine to enter into an agreement with an investor of repute to avoid malpractices and the chaos prevailing at the mine.
“We therefore beseech your esteemed office to exercise their administrative role and stop artisanal mining activities at Redwing Mine (and) ensure Redwing Mine enters into a Tribute Agreement with an investor who has a proven record on responsible mining to avoid social, environmental and economic malpractices.”
“Investigate leakages of gold within the Redwing Mine-Better Brands supply chain.” Redwing Mine, the letter said, has produced over 1.1 million ounces of gold between 1966 and 2004 and played a significant part in the economic stabilisation and domestic resource mobilisation over years.”
The company was placed under corporate care and maintenance in 2020, with Cecil Madondo appointed as corporate rescue manager.
Better Brands set up a milling plant ay Redwing Mine and sub-contracted several sponsors to engage artisanal miners leading to over 1 000 tributary claims being distributed to sponsors.
“Unprocessed sands accumulated from milling taken to Chegutu for leaching and the gold received is not declared to Redwing Mine,” the letter reads.
Redwing Mine is a legal entity licensed by the ministry of Mines and Mining Development to extract gold in Penhalonga, Manicaland province.
ln December 2020, Madondo signed a tribute agreement with Better Brands (Private) Limited ceding mining rights to the company.
Following the agreement, Better Brands moved into Redwing Mine as the new miner and is supposed to remit 20% of gold production to Redwing Mine.