News / Africa

HRW: Mozambique Families Displaced by Foreign Mining

Rio Tinto’s “Benga” coal mining operation in Tete province in central Mozambique. Arid, coal-rich Tete has been at the epicenter of a coal mining boom that has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment.
Rio Tinto’s “Benga” coal mining operation in Tete province in central Mozambique. Arid, coal-rich Tete has been at the epicenter of a coal mining boom that has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment.
— Mozambique is poised for a natural resource boom on the back of huge coal and natural gas discoveries.  But, new sources of wealth are often bad news for the communities living closest to where these resources are found.  A new report from Human Rights Watch highlights the plight of more than 1,400 families who were moved to make way for Brazilian and Australian coal mining operations in the province of Tete.  
 
Human Rights Watch says the Brazilian and Australian companies did build new homes for the displaced people in resettlement areas.  But, it says, in many cases the people lost the ability to grow food and ended up relying on the foreign coal companies for handouts.  

The scramble for coal in Tete province began in 2006 as Brazilian company Vale moved in followed by Australia's Rio Tinto and India's Jindal steel.   

Human Rights Watch researcher Nisha Varia, who made three trips to the area in 2012, describes how the lives of peasant families living close to the Zambezi River were affected.  

"Many of the people who were moved survived by farming and expected they would be able to do so when they were moved to the resettlement site," said Varia. "What happened is that the land where they were moved to is extremely dry and does not have access to the same water resources that many of them, not all of them, had before.  One of the biggest problems is that they weren’t able to grow the crops that they were used to growing for their consumption."
 
One of the people Human Rights watch spoke to, Senolia Sayeni, had to move her family to make way for the Vale company mine.
 
The plot of land she was given in the resettlement area turned out to already belong to someone else.

“All I want is land to farm," she says, "because farming is the only way we know how to survive.”

In the face of these difficulties, Human Rights Watch warns, people’s frustrations are growing.  

Atilia M. and her son harvest vegetables in a plot along the Revuboë River near their village, Capanga, before resettlement. (Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch)Atilia M. and her son harvest vegetables in a plot along the Revuboë River near their village, Capanga, before resettlement. (Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch)
x
Atilia M. and her son harvest vegetables in a plot along the Revuboë River near their village, Capanga, before resettlement. (Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch)
Atilia M. and her son harvest vegetables in a plot along the Revuboë River near their village, Capanga, before resettlement. (Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch)
Nisha Varia says it comes as no surprise that resettled communities have increased their protests against Vale's mine.

"We encountered a lot of frustration and a bit of a sense of betrayal," said Varia. "I think people are frustrated because they are having to ask for help and assistance and many of them don’t want to do that.  Many of them said we don’t want to be beggars.  We want to have the means to support ourselves."

So why did Senolia Sayeni and her family end up so far from their original home close to the river when they were resettled?

Part of the problem, says Human Rights Watch, is that land is becoming incredibly scarce in Tete province as more and more of it is set aside for mining.

"The land that many of these communities said they selected for themselves," said Varia. "They proposed some sites  - all of those sites were already in other mining licensed areas so the government wasn’t able to approve it.  In Moatize district, 80 percent of the land has actually been taken up by mining licenses.  People recognize this is now a problem but there aren’t a lot of options because the government has not planned effectively."
 
The farmland provided to Senolia S., upon her resettlement to Cateme, was reclaimed by its original cultivators. (Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch)The farmland provided to Senolia S., upon her resettlement to Cateme, was reclaimed by its original cultivators. (Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch)
x
The farmland provided to Senolia S., upon her resettlement to Cateme, was reclaimed by its original cultivators. (Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch)
The farmland provided to Senolia S., upon her resettlement to Cateme, was reclaimed by its original cultivators. (Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch)
Close to three-and-a-half-million hectares of land is already allocated for mining in Tete province.  When you add in licenses being processed, that is 60 percent of the province.
 
Human Rights Watch's Nisha Vaira says this resettlement dilemma will likely get worse as Mozambique gets ready to exploit, not only its coal resources, but vast natural gas finds in the north of the country.  

She says the companies and the government of Mozambique must learn from their mistakes and the countries where the companies are based must uphold international human rights standards as they scramble for Mozambique's resources.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid