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

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years 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.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs