By Mary Taruvinga
EMBATTLED Chinese mining firm, Afrochine Smelting Pvt Ltd (Afrochine), which has been involved in numerous shady mining deals and activities across the country has rushed to court, suing Mines and Mining Development minister Winstone Chitando in a bid to clear its name.
Afrochine, in court papers seen by NewZimbabwe.com Tuesday, denies responsibility for controversial mining operations in the Mavhuradonha Mountains, legally designated as a pristine wildlife reserve and sacred cultural heritage site.
The legal designation prohibits any such activities.
Chitando is being jointly sued with a company called Earthlink Minerals Pvt, which Afrochine argues is actually the one carrying out the mining operations which are devouring the spectacular, idyllic environ into a wasteland.
Afrochine wants both Earthlink and Chitando to tell the court the truth regarding ownership of the controversial mining site after it hogged the limelight for the wrong reasons following reports it was behind the desecration of the panoramic landscape popular with tourists.
The company, it was reported, ransacked the padlock at the main entrance of the reserve before moving in excavation equipment and heavy machinery, disrupting the many species of wildlife which call the natural habitat, one of the few remaining in the world.
The almost 600 square kilometre wildlife resort has been maintained in its natural state since 1988 when the government designated it as a protected area under the Communal Lands Act.
This ensured its protection from mining, agriculture and any other activities that might be targeted.
Interestingly, Afrochine admits to being the rightful claimant to mining rights in the area, but denies ever carrying out the reported mining activities.
In its urgent court application, Afrochine is seeking an order barring Earthlink from mining its chrome in the wilderness and that it is also declared the rightful owner of the claim by the court.
The world-renowned Mavuradonha is a World Heritage Site “nominee” and the local community view it as a sacred place where their ancestors and spirits reside.
Afrochine said Earthlink and the minister, cited as respondents, should have clarified that the mining company did not carry any operations.
Afrochine said it only discovered that Earthlink has been mining in their claim since around July 24 this year.
The mining company says the actions of EarthLink impacted negatively on the environment as well as on their reputation as media widely reported that it was Afrochine responsible.
In his founding affidavit filed on behalf of the company, Qedisani Mlambo said Afrochine is still assessing the impacts of mining on the environment.
“This is an urgent chamber application to stop Earthlink from carrying out mining activities at Makura 100 and Makura E and D, Mavhuradonha Wilderness Reserve, Muzarabaani District in Mashonaland Central.
Mlambo said Afrochine was granted mining rights for the claims above but has not commenced mining.
“What is disturbing to the applicant is that the respondent purported to be Afrochine Smelting and they gained access to the Wilderness reserve without proper consultation with the local leadership.
Respondents’ actions are unsustainable in that they are alleged to have destroyed the national heritage site in the Mavhuradonha Wilderness Reserve if news reports are anything to go by. Further local people’s livelihoods have been affected heavily by the actions of the respondent in that water bodies have drained and their grazing lands taken away from them,” he said.
He added: “Further, the respondents’ actions have been extensively reported by all sections of the media hence causing media backlash not only of the applicant but the whole Chinese community in the country. This is a clear case of mistaken identity where Earthlink actions are attributed to the applicant because the mining location in question is owned by the applicant.”
Afrochine complained that Earthlink has apparently done nothing to dissociate itself from the applicant when allegations of unsustainable and harmful mining arose.
“There has been a backlash as a result of respondent’s mining activities on the applicant’s mining location. These have a negative impact on the Chinese community in Zimbabwe as reports claim that they are destroying the environment and yet the actions complained of are not those of the applicant.”
Afrochine says it has a clear right to chrome in the location and the actions of the respondents are prejudicial to the company’s legitimate mining rights and business in general.
In his certificate of urgency, the company’s lawyer, Fanuel Nyamayaro said ,There appears to be a huge publicity fallout with the media attributing the mining to applicants and to Chinese businessmen in general and yet this is not the case.
The matter is yet to be heard.