HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsDiamond miners must not renege on social responsibility

Diamond miners must not renege on social responsibility

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Government has a policy that requires investors to implement social responsibility programmes in their area of investment.

This has seen communities reaping huge infrastructural benefits from investing companies in mining especially.

We are talking of lucky communities in Mashonaland West where platinum miner Zimplats has built schools, clinics and good roads that now benefit thousands of people who live in and around Selous where the company operates from.

This, unfortunately, has not been the case with the poor villagers of Chiadzwa and the surrounding area of Marange where, more than four years after the discovery of diamonds, the inhabitants of that area still describe their way of life as worse than before the find of the century — diamonds.

All one sees in Chiadzwa are massive structures set up solely for the exploitation of diamonds and nothing at all to indicate people taking away the diamonds know there are people who have a natural claim to those stones, whom they have just shoved aside and forgotten about.

Companies mining diamonds in the area have, together with government, initiated plans to relocate villagers living around the mines to ensure that the poor folk do not become impediments.

Canadile and Mbada, the two companies that are registered to mine diamonds, set aside $10 million for “the immediate relocation of 1 800 households” in Chiadzwa.

Two years later, the relocation is still to take shape because the villagers are not happy with the place they are being forced to resettle. No basic infrastructure is in place.

We have just learnt that some of the families that have so far been forced to move now live in tobacco barns!

The mining companies had agreed to build five-roomed houses for each household and to set up irrigation infrastructure for the 1 800 households that were earmarked for movement to Arda Transau in Odzi.

The mining companies, which only last Wednesday reaped over $72 million from the auction of the stones, have apparently failed to provide the basic necessities for the people that they want removed from near their mining activities.

Government ministers have spoken strongly against mining firms which fail to set up infrastructure in their areas of operations.

Ministers have even gone to the extent of demanding that the miners should build mansions for chiefs in the areas.

At Chiadzwa, these doyens of corporate social responsibility (CSR) have been quiet.

There is no agitation for infrastructural development and improvement of social amenities in this dry area where hunger stalks the land perennially.

It is not surprising that investors in the diamond area have responded sluggishly to improve the lives of people of Marange.

We are watching this ball closely.

Government should not fool us by talking of immense benefits awaiting this country from diamond proceeds when people being displaced by the mining activities have not been relocated and the mines’ hinterlands remain poor.

If Information minister Webster Shamu last pilloried Zimplats — despite all the documented achievements — for not building a house for Chief Zvimba, what does he have to say about Canadile and Mbada who have very little to show in the area of CSR in Chiadzwa?

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