Govt bars Chinese ‘brick plant’ deal

African museum

PLANS by a Chinese firm Ming Chang Sino-Africa Mining Investments to “ostensibly” set up a multi-million-dollar brick moulding plant in a Harare area known for a lucrative century-old gold treasure trove is reportedly up in smoke with indications that the government reversed the deal, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.

Ming Chang Sino-Africa was granted permission to extract “shale stones” and establish a brick manufacturing plant in Warren Park D along Crowborough Road where Golden Quarries once mined for gold since 1924.

The Chinese company has gold mining operations in Shamva, Shurugwi, Bindura, Mazowe, Quiche (where the company also owns a brick moulding plant in the gold-rich area), Kodak and a processing plant in Bubi. 

As part of a month-long investigation by the Independent to ascertain the activities of Ming Chang Sino-Africa in the area where the government is now constructing the Museum of African Liberation, documents gleaned show that, Golden Quarries once extracted gold in the area in 1924.

As shown by written correspondence in our possession, the Rhodesian government registered 16 gold blocks in the area.

Authorities, as sources who briefed this publication noted this week, “were well aware of the real treasure that lies within the belly of the earth” apart from the shale stones, which the Chinese firm was licenced to extract.

As it relates to the unfolding events, sources added, the Ming Chang Sino-Africa deal was now dead in the water after the government decided to set up the Museum of African Liberation in the same area to immortalise the continent’s triumphant struggle against colonialism. It is expected to open doors to the public this year.

In light of the permission granted to Ming Chang Sino-Africa, documents perused by the Independent show that two hectares of land were going to be subdivided in Warren Park for purposes of setting up “shale stones extraction” and “brick making” operations for the Chinese firm.

In a letter addressed to the then City of Harare Department of Works director Zvenyika Chawatama, Mashonaland East provincial mining director Tendai Kashiri underscored that his office had no objection to the subdivision of the land in question to pave way for Ming Chang Sino-Africa investment.

“This office has no objections to the proposed subdivision” for purposes of “shale stones extraction”, “along Crowborough Road”, Kashiri wrote on April 21, 2021, to Chawatama.

“However, the proponent should adhere to mining guidelines, furnish this office with a proposed method of work and should submit relevant plans.”

Chawatama, who is on suspension, referred questions to council.

“Institutional memory sometimes needs resuscitation. In any case, the acting director of works has access to information from the department that you may require,” Chawatama said.

Acting Town Clerk Mabhena Moyo professed ignorance about the issue.

However, a week prior to Kashiri writing to Chawatama, and on April 14, 2021, inspectors from the City of Harare had written to the Mashonaland East provincial mining director saying they had discovered that “the area was mined by Golden Quarries from 1924 for gold and 16 blocks were registered”.

In their letter, the inspectors indicated that “the area applied for is less than 100 metres from the residential built-up area” and “approximately 50 metres from the Crowborough main road”.

They (inspectors) buttressed that “during their visit,” to the site Ming Chang Sino-Africa Mining representatives advised that “the company plans to mine red clay from the hillside and set up a brick making plant”.

This, according to sources close to the intrigue surrounding the deal, irked authorities and other critical stakeholders in the mining sector who then alerted government on the availability of gold in that area.

“The brick moulding plan was mysterious considering that the area is well known for a century-old gold resource. We are even aware of the coordinates. Geological data available show that the area has rich gold reserves.

“As a result, President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa was notified of this and that is part of the land where the African museum is situated.

“It is a well-known fact across the world and Africa in particular, that investors express interest to extract a mineral of lesser value in the same area where stones of higher value exist. In short, investors sometimes falsify the mineral that they are extracting,” a source said this week.

Mining inspectors, as documents further show, had warned that the intended site for the planned shale stone and brick moulding plant was within a 100 metres radius of a high-voltage power line.

Environmental Management Agency (Ema) director of protection Christopher Mushava advised Ming Chang Sino-Africa to follow due process.

“You are advised not to implement the project until an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate has been granted,” he wrote on March 4, 2021, to the Chinese firm.

Ming Chang Sino-Africa’s prospectus to Ema introduced the company’s intentions to set up a brick making project.

Contacted for comment, Ema spokesperson Amkela Sidanke said a green light was given, but no application for an EIA has been done to date.

“This is a prospectus response giving them the green light to proceed and do an EIA taking into cognisance what has been highlighted by the agency. However, as l did indicate earlier, the project has not applied for an EIA,” Sidanke said.

Questions posed by the Independent to a Ming Chang Sino-Africa representative only identified as Jessie, were not addressed at the time of going to print.

This publication sought to understand from the firm the investment capital it intended to inject to construct the proposed brick manufacturing plant.

Similarly, questions posed to Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando on whether authorities were aware that the area granted to the Chinese firm held gold reserves drew blanks.

The Independent also sought to understand the circumstance around how Ming Chang Sino-Africa was licenced and if authorities knew that the same area allocated to the firm was a gold mining site in the past.

With construction of the African museum now underway, the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) in partnership with the Institute of African Liberation (Instak) are setting up a shopping mall which Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavhima said would create “a shopping experience in a safe congenial environment”.

He said this in his speech delivered in June during the groundbreaking ceremony of the shopping mall.

An upmarket golf course will also be incorporated into the “Liberation City”.

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