Villagers in Zimbabwe say a Chinese mining company has told them they will have to leave their homes to make way for a granite quarry. The company denies plans to forcibly move the villagers, but a lack of transparency has many fearing they will be pushed out of their ancestral land.
Some villagers in Zimbabwe’s Mutoko District say they are not sure what the future holds now that Chinese companies such as Jinding Mining are exploring quarry mining in the region.
Most are reluctant to even talk about it, for fear of retaliation.
But this 42-year-old farmer, who asked that his name be withheld, is eager to speak out about the company’s plan to mine an area that stretches across 180 hectares and includes some of their homes.
“The area they want is where we live and where our cattle graze. It’s our source of income. We wonder where we will go, the area they want is too huge. Our ancestors' graves are there, too. We wonder where they will relocate them,” said the farmer.
Activists say more than 50 families could be forced out by one mining company alone.
Richard Ncube of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association said his group plans to ask the courts to prevent the eviction of villagers.
“ln order to help the communities, we are raising awareness on environmental issues. We are researching on these issues in order to inform legal reform and then we take matters to court as a last resort to have their remedies addressed or issues addressed,” he said.
An environmental impact report by Jinding Mining has addressed the concerns of villagers, said Amkela Sidange from Zimbabwe’s Environmental Management Agency.
“What we only do as the agency is to take the project that is brought by the project owner, we go through it, we verify whether what is being indicated in the report that consultations were done, were really done. We actually go to the ground and triangulate to check if what is in the report is what actually took place on the ground,” said Sidange.
The farmer who spoke to VOA said the Jinding company asked no ordinary people about their concerns over the mining project, only the local leaders.
Officials at Jinding and the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe were not available to comment.
In a statement, the embassy said Chinese investors in Zimbabwe are working for the betterment of the country.