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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs