By Manicaland Correspondent
Mutasa – Residents of Penhalonga say environmental rights violations by Redwing Mine have worsened after the company subcontracted more artisanal miners who are indiscriminately polluting their surroundings posing a serious health hazard.
This came out during a local stakeholders’ engagement meeting to promote implementation of the devolution policy.
The event was organised by Centre for Research and Development (CRD) in partnership with Penhalonga Residents and Ratepayers Trust (PRRT).
Residents voiced concern over the continued violation of their social, economic and environmental rights in their communities while relevant authorities professed ignorance over the damage.
Chairman for Penhalonga Residents and Ratepayers Trust (PRRT) Westone Makoni confirmed that Redwing has subcontracted artisanal miners, adding that the local community was under siege.
“We don’t even know who approved everything that is happening at Redwing Mine.
“We wonder whether relevant authorities such as the Environmental Management Agency are concerned about our health and well-being. It’s free for all in our community,” said Makoni.
Others said they lived with the daily nightmare of seeing toxic dust containing cyanide blowing in the direction of their homes with nothing being done to bring the situation to normalcy.
“Trees are being cut down. Our vegetables are being polluted by toxic dust from Redwing. Where is our government to protect citizens against all these forms of abuse by these capitalists,” queried another resident.
They accused EMA of failing to issue an Environmental Protection Order to Redwing Mine.
EMA provincial manager Kingstones Chitotombe professed ignorance over the operations of subcontractors at the mine.
EMA regulates implementation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), a prerequisite for any mining activity in the country to quantify and evaluate impact of human activities on the environment and prepare mitigation plans and measures.
Chitotombe said unregulated mining activities at Redwing have been brought to his attention and they filed a docket at Penhalonga police station, without giving details and dates.
“EMA is not aware of the mining activities taking place at Redwing Mine whether it subcontracted a contractor to mine at their site under their EPO lease agreements, or if claims are being exploited under subcontract.
“To fully understand the details of the tributary agreements for mining subcontractors it is under the authority of the Ministry of Mines, but we have acted on our part as EMA.
“It’s correct that we have received these reports and even witnessed the irregular mining operations. What we have done as an agency is that we have opened a docket with ZRP Penhalonga,” said Chitotombe.
CRD director James Mupfumi said the fact that local duty bearers like EMA and Mutasa Rural District Council (MRDC) were professing ignorance over the wanton mining at Redwing Gold mine could be signs a political muscle is behind the plunder of gold at the mine.
“Apparently, no single penny of revenue is going to Mutasa Rural District Council and no one knows where the loot is going either,” said Mupfumi.
He said despite the daylight plunder at Redwing mine, the company is failing to manage its dumps where suspected toxic dust with cyanide is blowing everyday across residential areas in Penhalonga.
“Government has a constitutional obligation to ensure environmental heath of citizens by forcing mining entities to comply to environmental laws. Government has reneged on its role because of greed. Top political actors in government are actively in the plunder of gold at Redwing hence their failure of protect citizens,” said CRD director.
Mupfumi said the issue at Redwing is a serious issue of human rights abuse by state and citizens must band together and seek international support to stop health carnage.
“All efforts to solve this issue have been ignored by government and we call for international support to support citizens in Penhalonga,” he said.