Mutare, 6th & 7th December 2016

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


As experienced geologist and mining consultant, Kenneth Ngawila is not short of words and ideas when it comes to empowering artisanal miners for the benefit of local communities in the gold-rich Penhalonga area. During a workshop with different stakeholders affected by the extraction of the precious ore in this town close to Mutare, CNRG asked him what can be done to uplift mining communities, ensuring that they also benefit from mining activities and how could we best adopt bottom up strategies to boost the capacity of small scale miners to mine safely whilst creating for them an enabling business environment, allowing them to mine freely and to obtain the legal recognition they deserve.
K.N. I have been working in the mining sector since when I was 19 years. Now – after more than 23 years in the field  working as mining consultant for big companies such as Mimosa and RedWing –  I realised that I am mature enough to deploy my expertise at the service of the mining communities here in the area. I explained the local councillor that I my objective is to reduce poverty and improve the living situation of my villagers, that we cannot be poor with all the gold we posses in our land.  And this is why I would like to cooperate with CNRG, to work on this idea together


Mining consultant and expert Kenneth Ngwila talking at the CNRG workshop in Penhalonga

Mining consultant and expert Kenneth Ngwila talking at the CNRG workshop in Penhalonga

CNRG: What would you like to do for the Penhalonga community, with particular regard to the situation of artisanal miners?
I think that the best way to empower small scale miners is with trainings which would give them the technical skills and knowledge needed. I would like to organise short training for artisanal miners, also involving  other stakeholders such as local councillors, in order to provide them with official certificates  after a final examination and field work.
CNRG: What would be the training look like?
I would like to teach them the different phases of mining: starting with prospecting, mean looking for mineral deposits, an activity that needs the support of geologists to do a proper mapping of the composition of rocks in the area, then teaching them how to ranch across the rift for reaching mineral zones, sampling and  trail milling to see how many grams are contained in the sand they collect.
CNRG:  How we can then ensure that these newly acquired skills are then transmitted to other villagers?
I hope to remain working as a mining consultant and organise further trainings to teach other miners how to become consultants, as well as in order to transfer skills and know-how around the different villages in the area
CNRG:  The illegal panning of gold here in Penhalonga is strictly interlinked to the problem of smuggling: how can we best tackle this issue?
Smuggling is in first place linked to the culture of corruption prevalent among local government officials, security agents and border police. Throughout our porous borders,  gold buyers from South Africa, Mozambique etc  enter easily in contact with local smugglers here in Zimbabwe, when they can’t afford to pay all the value of the minerals they use fidelity systems. The gold is then smuggled in big markets outside the country, sometimes the value of the precious stone smuggled out of Zimbabwe total almost the 40% of actual production.
CNRG: What is the role of small scale miners in the black market of gold?
For small scale miners is really difficult to sell the gold they dig, because at the current stage the criminalisation of small scale miners from the government is still in place, meaning that if they are found with gold they can be arrested. So when they mine gold, they are  also forced to sell it through the black market to sell it and make their living. This is why there is an urgent need from the government to decriminalise and legalise their status, give them proper title  to mine and to do it safely.  Local communities need to be involved and allowed to mine with no fear of being arrested and put in jail
CNRG: what is the attitude of the big mining companies towards informal miners? It was not long time ago that a security guard of RedWing Mining killed  an small scale panner running away after having opened the fire several times to him and his friends
Big companies should release the superficial blocks of their mining concessions to the communities. The big firms use equipment and machinery that allow them to dig up to 100m of depth underground, they cannot, concretely,  mine the top layer levels of the soil, because the equipment is too big and cumbersome. So,  big mining firms should give superficial deposits, which are also the safest areas and the less difficult to excavate, to small scale miners and the local communities, which should then organise themselves through a community mining team.
CNRG: and how we can best ensure that mining firms hire local people and create equal employment opportunities?
Under the requirements of the Mines and Minerals Act, mining firms are obliged to hire locally. The problem, however, remains like always one of nepotism, corruption and opaqueness in the hiring practices which in practice .
CNRG: I really hope we would have the chance to work side by side in these forthcoming months and start a training program supporting small scale miners with know-how and the necessary practical and legal resources to finally operate safely and freely as well as tackling illicit flows linked to gold smuggling outside Zimbabwe.
Thank you, I look forward to it

Artisanal Miner brutally shot dead by Redwing Mine Security in Penhalonga

CNRG promises to seek justice for the family

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.

At CNRG,  we will not rest till we secure justice for this hard working Zimbabwean whose only crime was to be jobless and poor. CNRG will engage a lawyer to demand fair compensation for the deceased miner’s family and for the injured miner as well as to bring the perpetrators to justice. We shall fight to end corporate impunity.
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