PENHALONGA — Gold mining along the rich Mutare River belt by the Russia-Zimbabwe partnership has opened a new lease of life to the peri-urban location.
Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ), a brainchild of the late Vice-President (VP) Joshua Nkomo, is mining gold in partnership with a registered Russian company, OZGEO.
The partnership has put to an end the reckless and unfriendly environmental practice by illegal gold panners.
Mercury, used to trap the mineral, has caused environmental disasters in the area while reckless digging of the earth had been conducted without proper rehabilitation.
Unlike other unscrupulous mining companies who often leave the area after extracting gold, DTZ-OZGEO has proved to be different.
Penhalonga and surrounding villages have directly benefited from minerals in their area.
“Penhalonga community is blessed to have this company here,” said Martha Zimuto, a 22-year-old villager who said mining operations there have opened up a new lease of life to the whole village.
“Illegal panners were a threat to everything around here including human life because they polluted water sources using the harmful mercury.
They left many pits uncovered resulting in people and livestock falling in,” she added.
Currently, approximately 40 hectares of land have been rehabilitated and the area is now used for agricultural purposes.
“We have an obligation as a responsible mining company to properly rehabilitate the area. The land will be used for different purposes and currently part of the rehabilitated land is used for agricultural purposes,” explained DTZ-OZGEO director Ismail Shillaev.
“We have several indigenous trees in our nursery and we are going to plant them in the rehabilitated area to restore the scenic environment of this river belt,” he added.
Shillaev also said the environmental watchdogs, Environment Management Authority and other stakeholders were pleased with the work done by his mining company.
The company does not use any chemicals in attracting gold, a move environmentalists called “smart mining” because it is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Besides mining gold in a “smart” manner, DTZ-OZGEO has completed a lot of community building projects to uplift the surrounding areas.
“This mining company has renovated several schools around Penhalonga. They also give some schools learning materials while underprivileged pupils have been supported with fees.
To me it means empowerment because rural children are the worst affected by the current economic situation,” said Jane Kamushinda.
The Robert Mugabe Orphanage in Penhalonga has also received financial support from the gold mining company.
Among other projects DTZ-OZGEO works with the National Arts Gallery to identify and nurture artistic talent as a way of taking the urban-centred genre to rural areas.
This will provide talented people the opportunity to showcase their abilities.
The company is also in the process of building houses for its long-serving workers.
Currently, 15 houses are under construction and more will be built to reward employees.
“I have been here for a long time and I enjoy working for this company. I came here as a security guard and I rose through the ranks to become the senior dispatcher.
I come from this community and I noticed that the company and the community have developed good relations,” said Solomon Gombo.
He further explained locals can ask for a company ambulance to take the sick to hospital for free. On the other hand, the local hospital (Old Mutare Hospital) receives medical kits and other materials on behalf of the community.
With all the work they are doing to uplift the community DTZ-OZGEO feels humbled to plough back to the community.
“We are really honoured to plough back to the community. The assistance might be small, but we believe it will make a positive change.
Children at the Robert Mugabe Orphanage needs support and love and we have taken it upon ourselves to make sure that we make a contribution towards their upbringing,” said Shillaev.
DTZ-OZGEO started operating in 1995. The late VP Nkomo set up a trust to ensure citizens are actively involved in the management of their resources.
OZGEO is a Russia-based company which provides technical and financial support in mining gold along Mutare River in Penhalonga.