By Robert Tapfumaneyi
A GOLD rush has hit Penhalonga in Mutasa, Manicaland province with claims some senior politicians and members of the security sector are heavily involved.
According to environmental rights lobby, Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG), the situation has brought massive environmental damage with farmers also part of those affected by the influx of people in the area.
“Random open cast mining by scores of syndicates, destruction of fields belonging to local peasant farmers, pollution of Mutare River and invasion of Penhalonga estates by artisanal miners brought in by syndicates linked to ruling elites have accelerated environmental degradation,” CRNG said Monday.
“The environmental regulatory authority, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has not taken action, raising suspicion of the involvement of very powerful or politically well-connected individuals in the unfolding environmental crisis in the once pristine town of Penhalonga.”
The lobby said the problem in Penhalonga started with the placement of Redwing Mine under judicial management by Metallon Gold in 2018, citing viability challenges owing to foreign currency shortages.
According to sources, those who smuggle the gold ore will first bribe the security guards.
“Smuggling has given rise to disparities in terms of earnings for artisanal miners because while some get 40 percent share, those who are smuggling are retaining 100 percent value,” said the lobby group.
“Some artisanal miners alleged that the smuggling of gold ore was happening with the full knowledge of Prime Royal Mining personnel.
“Most of the artisanal miners who are part of the smuggling syndicate are closely linked to the management of the company.”
CNRG also established that Prime Royal Mining buys gold from artisanal miners at straight weight prices of US$40 per gram instead of fine weight price of US$57 per gram.
“It also emerged during the research that Prime Royal Mining does not have a clear managerial structure on the ground and as a result, it has been difficult for artisanal miners to know who exactly is in charge,” said the group.
The alleged involvement of senior politicians and members of the security sector has made the situation worse.
CNRG established that in December 2019, some Joint Operation Command (JOC) officials from Manicaland Province held meetings at Redwing Mine to deliberate on the future of the company.
“Some of the senior police officers in the province have since been allocated gold rich spots to extract the mineral without following proper regulatory procedures as required by law,” said CNRG.
“Politicians and other politically linked elites use power and political connections to access gold claims and parcel them to syndicates which they manage.
“The closure of Redwing Mine offered an opportunity to political elites, the politically connected and securocrats who, with the aid of the organised syndicates, are exploiting the mine’s claims dotted around Penhalonga and Tsvingwe for profit without due care for the environment.
“The conversion of Redwing Mine to a huge artisanal mining field has caused political and socio-environmental disputes within the Penhalonga and Tsvingwe communities.
“The politically connected have been displacing other artisanal miners from the mining field.
“There are reports that some artisanal miners have lost their gold rich pits and ore to syndicate leaders fronting political and security figures in the province.
CNRG added, “At one point, one losing parliamentary candidate from Manicaland Province, who owns an excavator operating in the gold field, reportedly grabbed 11 tonnes of gold ore from other artisanal gold miners over a dispute on use of the excavator.
“Artisanal miners contracted by Redwing Mine and Prime Royal Mining are digging close to the road and Mutare River at the edge of Liverpool compound.
“Digging by the roadsides poses a danger to motorists should the roads collapse.”