On the 6th and 7th December 2016, CNRG held a two-days workshop in Mutare addressed to local communities and artisanal miners in Penhalonga and involving the participation and contribution of freelance, independent and state-media journalists and other national and regional CSOs which devoted their time and valuable expertise to train small scale miners on media awareness and environmental law & policies.
This project comes as the conclusion of 2 years of continuous and strenuous work done by CNRG with artisanal miners from the gold rich Penhalonga, conducted with the aim to advocate for the recognition and de-criminalisation of small scale mining within the panorama of extractive activities, an objective which has spurred CNRG staff to assist a lengthy and cumbersome procedure which have finally allowed more than 50 gold panners to be formalised and officially recognised as miners.
Representatives from several mining groups and syndicates have widely acknowledged the benefits and advantages brought by the presence of CNRG, from helping them in better understanding and appreciating the value of the minerals found in their land, their potential role in contributing to the national fiscus when properly registered as miners, and the importance of wearing safe and adequate protective equipment when dig into mining sites. The coordinator of a female miner’s group explained that, thanks to CNRG assistance, women have finally been able to tap into a traditionally male dominated sector and can now venture in the mines more safely and work peacefully with their male counterparts. “We have become deeply aware of our rights as workers and, above all, as women” she concluded.
After a first session on assessing and evaluating the progress made through the project, freelance and other media journalists have been called to present over the role of media in amplifying and enhancing miners’s voices across the country. Journalists can play a pivotal and decisive role in disseminate the stories of brutality, intimidation and violence suffered by artisanal mining, gathering evidence from the ground and giving a louder voice to countless victims of corporate and state sponsored abuses, pushing artisanal mining back in the political agenda. However, it is essential to ensure that journalists themselves are properly trained to effectively and safely handle information and that mining communities and worker’s representatives, together with organisations operating on the ground, cooperate to ensure a regular and constant flow of information, as mining sites are highly restricted areas and obtaining reliable and accurate information remains a challenge, mostly due to the frequently uncooperative attitude of mining companies and local authorities.
Nevertheless, the mainstream and social media can play a forefront role to ensure that stories of artisanal miners are brought to the attention of the general public within and outside Zimbabwe widely and loudly, in such a way that whoever is responsible for the violence and abuses perpetrated towards them and their families, through summary executions and killing, inhumane working conditions and sexual violence and exploitation, can finally be held accountable and forced to face justice.
The second day of training has involved the participation of legal organisations such as Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, highlighting judicial and non-judicial mechanisms to access compensations for the victims of violence in mining areas and Natural Justice, a region-wide NGO which works at the intersection of human rights and environmental law with the aim to preserve and foster a sustainable use of biological diversity through the self-determination of Indigenous peoples and local communities. Gino and Laureen provided an important overview over environmental law and talked about community development through participatory and inclusive decision making processes, bringing successful cases from other natural resource rich countries, such as Gambia, to illustrate how local communities must know and use all existing legislation available to be able to speak and engage effectively with the mining companies and local government officials, ensuring that their will and their priorities are met and addressed before the beginning of any mining operation.
At the current stage Zimbabwe’s Mines and Mining Development Ministry seems not to have adequately acknowledged the potential contribution of small scale and artisanal gold miners to the country’ troubled mineral resource sector. So far, indeed, little work has been done at policy level to increase support and ensure decent work conditions for the artisanal miners in the country, mostly in the gold rich Penhalonga and Premier areas, in Manicaland province.
The uplifting and empowerment of small scale and artisanal miners through the formalisation and regularisation of their work is the more recent project initiated by CNRG – thanks to the support from ICCO Cooperation who assisted in the syndication and registration of the five mining claims and the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation who chipped in with environmental impact assessments.
The project aims at assisting informal miners by entitling them with licences in order to formally register their work, allowing them to mine freely, access markets and ensuring their rights are protected by law. 52 artisanal miners, including 26 women in the Penhalonga area are benefiting from this project. They were grouped into 5 syndicates of between 10-12 members each. The five claims, named Sunrise 1,2,3,4&5 are located in the Penhalonga and Premier Estate areas.
More resources are needed to equip the artisanal miners with soft skills as well as to acquire more tools to improve their output.
Testimonial – Kwayedza Mafunga – Chairman of Sunrise C, one of the five Artisanal Miners Group
CNRG has come in at the right time and we are anticipating full scale gold production within the next fortnight in most of the groups. Already we are gearing up to take our ore to registered stamp mills for processing and look forward to selling our gold to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s (RBZ) Fidelity Printers and Refiners. This will go a long way into securing our long term livelihoods. There is the most important added advantage of no longer fearing harassment from the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Border Control and Minerals Unit as all our activities are above board
Testimonial – Interview – Mining Consultant Kenneth Ngwila
31 August 2016
On Friday 26th August 2016 Redwing Mine security guards shot and killed an artisanal miner who had been seen panning for gold together with other artisanal miners. The panners didn’t attempt to run or to fight; Yet, one of the guards just opened fire at very close range, shooting the deceased on the leg. Upon hearing the gunshot the other panners attempted to flee, after having tried to rescue the wounded friend. One of the guards however shot him in the stomach as his friends carried him away, killing him. The Redwing guards fled the scene after the remaining panners went to the company office to report what the guards had done. At the gate of Redwing Mine office the chief security officer ordered the guards to shoot the men approaching and About four live bullets were fired, one panner was hit in the waist but survived after he was rushed to hospital. The community reacted and started fighting Redwing security guards, burning down security shelters. The murderous security guards only spent less than 36 hours in police cells and were released on $100 bail each.
MP for Mutasa South Irene Zindi immediately came to Penhalonga and told the community to be calm and allow the law to take its course. She spent the weekend in Penhalonga and attended the burial.
CNRG Executive Director Farai Maguwu talked to the mother of the deceased miner who said her son was her only bread winner and he started panning when he was very young to feed the family. Only last Friday the deceased had gone to the village with some building material for the construction of her mother’s house but when he couldn’t find her at home he returned with the material to Penhalonga, later telling her mum he feared the material would be stollen if delivered in her absence, and promising to return Saturday. A promise he could never kept. His 21 year old wife who was orphaned early in life said she is inconsolable and want to see justice served for her husband. He left behind a 1 years old baby.