4. Socio-economic and Environmental Impacts of Gold Mining in Penhalonga
4.1 History of Gold Mining at Penhalonga
4.1.1 Gold Mining in Penhalonga during the pre-Colonial Period
Gold mining in the Penhalonga and surrounding areas is unique in that it is one of the very earliest areas to be opened up for gold mining by the settlers. Apart from that, it has now been established that even before the settlers started mining the gold, the local indigenous people had already been exploiting the gold resources. Ann Kritzinger in 2005 made the following observations after preliminary investigation relating pre-colonial mining in Nyanga and the Penhalonga area:
The Nyanga districts of the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe between the Makaha and Penhalonga gold belts are not known for the occurrence of gold. Paradoxically, and supported by recent discoveries of primary sources, today’s undercover gold panners are living testimony to the presence of gold in a landscape modified by hill slope terracing about which oral tradition is silent.
Although tradition has it that the name of Mutare River comes from utare referring to the glittering gold that was found and mined by the locals. There has been however little documentation of gold mining in the area before colonialism.
4.1.2 Gold Mining in Penhalonga during the Colonial Period
During the colonial period, gold mining in the Penhalonga and surrounding area was associated with the two earliest mines to be established in the area, Penhalonga and Rezende Mines. These are the two mines, which have been changing hands from as long ago as 1895 when Penhalonga Mine was opened to the changes still taking place even after Independence.
In 1888 a British mining engineer, James Henry Jeffreys laid out the earliest two claims in the Penhalonga area, only to learn that the area was part of Manica Province in Portuguese Mozambique. Jeffreys therefore decided to name the mining claims after the officials from the Comphanhia de Moçambique, the company that controlled trade in Manica Province and other parts of Mozambique. The first claim was named Penhalonga after Count Penhalonga, chairperson of the trading Company and the second was named Rezende Mine after Baron de Rezende, the Company’s Director of Operation.
With Cecil Rhodes having been granted a Charter in 1889 which gave the BSAC powers to rule, police and make treaties and concessions from the Limpopo to the great lakes of Central Africa, the claim in Penhalonga soon changed hands. The area was annexed by Cecil Rhodes’ “Pioneer Column” in 1890. The BSAC representatives for the region (Archibald Ross Colquhoun and Frederick Courteney Selous) got a concession from Jeffreys in September 1890 effectively taking control of the mining claims.
The acquisition of the mines by the BSAC did not consider the local communities as would be beneficiaries of the gold mining since the Mashonaland Mining Regulation Number 1 of 1890 made it clear that gold mining was the privy of the settlers only. Unfortunately only grey literature is easily available on the lives of the local communities. Information on how the workers lived and on the socio-economic conditions of the local communities in the Penhalonga area has not been documented. It is however known that there was importation of foreign labour mostly from Malawi during the early days of the mines. This has had socio-cultural ramifications, which are felt even up to today as will be discussed in the section on ‘Socio-economic Impacts of Gold mining in Penhalonga.’
Similarly information on the mining itself is scant. There are no production records and reports on mining operations. Most literature that is easily available from early times of the mines is geological information with geologist and the like describing the ore bodies and the gold embedded in them. For example, Maclaren (1908:434) stated that the Penhalonga ore body “varies in width from 25 to 50 feet, of which some 8 to 20 feet may be economically worked. It is made up of a series of quartz lenticles occupying a zone of crushing in soft chloritic schists of the Swaziland Series. In the oxidized portion of the lode crocoisite (sic: crocoite) (chromate of lead) was abundant. In depth this mineral gave place to galena, with which blende, pyrite and chalcopyrite are associated.”
There seems to have been pessimism on the profitability of gold mining in the area resulting in many geological surveys. However, some of the statements from geologists and engineers were prophetic about gold mining in Penhalonga that it will one day be on a big profitable scale. Curle (1902) reports that a mining engineer reported on gold mining in Penhalonga as follows:
The notable mine in this part of Rhodesia is Penhalonga. It is a strong lode, nine feet wide, lying vertically in a mountain, and opened and driven on by a number of adits. It is of low value, but the facilities for cheap work are unusual. There is water power to drive a big mill, good timber, and an abundant labour supply. The mine is near a railway, and the climate is healthy. The one drawback is the low value of the ore, but I believe the Penhalonga will some day be worked on a big scale and at a profit.”
The BSAC was confident that Penhalonga had a future and that it was going to be a success story The 1903 by J. F. Jones, the Joint Manager and Secretary of the BSAC is an example of the optimism that the BSAC had:
In Mutare district over 12,500 feet of work has been accomplished at the Penhalonga Mine, where upwards of 200,000 of ore have been opened up. The average width of the reef is reported to be over 8 feet with an assay value of not less than 8 dwts., and as it is possible to work the mine by means of adit levels to a depth of 150 feet below the present third level, working costs will be exceptionally low, while water power is available to drive the 40-stamp mill which it is intended to erect in the first instance. The construction of a branch line of railway from Umtali to the mine is now under consideration. (Jones, 1903:17).
It is clear from the information that is available, as shown by the quotation that the early miners were not interested in the environment or the welfare of the workers. The early miners were more concerned with how the gold occurred geologically, the easy with which it can be mined, the abundance of water and availability of labour.
Not much has been written on gold mining at Penhalonga from the early 1900s up to the Second World War with reports simply pointing out that most operations before World War II were on a very small scale but picked up when Lonrho took over operations at Redwing. Information on mining activities by Lonrho and other operators in the Penhalonga area during UDI is unavailable. This is expected since the big brains behind Lonrho operations the Zimbabwe had connections with loyalty and it would have been very embarrassing for the British government if sanction busting by Lonhro became public knowledge. It is only after Independence that a lot has been and is being written about gold mining in Penhalonga.
4.1.3 Post-Independence Gold Mining in Penhalonga
Redwing Mine – Metalon Gold
Not much has been said about gold mining in Penhalonga in the first few decades of Independence. In the early 2000s the only issue that drew people’s attention to traditional gold mining in Penhalonga was the takeover of Redwing Mine by Metallon Gold, a private company, which took over Independence Mines from Lonmin in 2002 and Redwing Mine in Penhalonga was one of the mines that belonged to Lonmin. For the takeover to have the blessing of the government Metallon Gold had to partner with a local company. At first it appeared there was no problem with these arrangements, but it soon turned out that Metallon Gold might not have been negotiating in good faith. The company had agreed to partner with Stanmarker Mining as part of the empowerment drive but at the end Stanmarker Mining was sidelined and Metallon Gold acquired Independence Mines directly. Despite this, it was not possible to completely ignore the Zimbabwean partner and in order to bring in a Zimbabwean partner 30% stake was sold to Manyame Corporation. Unfortunately the deal did not go well ending up in lawsuits against each other. Although Metallon Gold agreed to relinquish the 30% stake to the Zimbabwean partner, it stopped its expansion programme of Zimbabwean activities. These had been projected at tripling gold output over a five year period, and involving an investment of upward of USD100 million.
Even after Independence the issue of local communities’ involvement in gold mining remains unresolved. Metallon Gold, a foreign South African company took over Redwing and in the spirit of indigenisation a 30% stake was supposed to be sold to a local company. It was not said that the shares should be sold to the local community or local community organisation but to a large company with the capital base to acquire the shares. It is unfortunate that this situation is allowed by the piece of legislation that controls mining in Zimbabwe.
Despite the fact that officially there is no active mining at Redwing Mine, there has been speculation concerning employees who are still at the mine including those resident in Mutare who are ferried to and from work on a daily basis. The fact that people do not know what is happening shows the extent to which gold mining has remained, from the colonial period to the post-Independence period a secret activity with only those involved knowing what is happening. Otherwise if one is outside the gold mining business, the information that one gets is fragmentary.
Although Metallon Gold claims that there are no operations at the mine since mining stopped with the flooding of the mines, the research revealed that there is a lot of activity based on reworking the many mine dumps (Plates 1 and 2) using improved technology for extracting the gold. It is now common practice to rework the mine dumps since traditional methods of gold extraction were very inefficient with the popular stump mill recovering only 30% of the gold in the ore. The new methods that include the placer method of extraction and the use of cyanide to recover the gold have a higher recovery rate.
Plate 1: New (light coloured area to the right) and old (light coloured area in
the left-hand corner) dump sites at Redwing Mine
This has given Redwing an opportunity to produce even more gold at reduced cost since the ore is already available and it has crushed. There is also reduced labour and energy cost. Similar to what happened during the colonial period environmental issues, workers welfare (the majority were made redundant) and social responsibility to the local communities are completely being disregarded. What is worrying is whether there is any remittance to the government since the miner is said to be closed? Whilst the government might believe that there is no gold production taking place, in reality there is even bigger production because of the advanced extraction technology. Unfortunately mine management could not be drawn to address this issue raising suspicion that gold is being smuggled out of the country.
During interviews with members of the community in Penhalonga Township, they were of the opinion that the mine was changing hands. However attempts to get confirmation from management were fruitless apart from being told that the company had a new manager who at that time knew very little about the history of Redwing. It was further said that it would not be possible to get any official statement since most of the senior staff had been reassigned, most of them to Arcturus Mine in Mashonaland East.
Plate 2: An Old Mine Dump being reworked at Redwing Mine Penhalonga
The second large-scale company mining gold at Penhalonga is a partnership between the Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ) and a Russia registered company called OZGEO. DTZ was set up as an initiative of the Vice President Dr. Joshua Nkomo to ensure the active participation of Zimbabweans in development projects and the management of their natural resources. The Trust was founded in June 1989 as one of the projects that leaders of ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU agreed would be launched to improve the economy of Matebeleland, which hitherto had not featured much in terms of development projects. The Trust Deed indicates that the objective for which the company was established was “to promote the interests, wellbeing, education, and experience of all Zimbabweans”. The agreement between the two leaders was that the profits from the Trust’s projects would be used in development projects in Matebeleland to offset low government investment in the area. Apart from mining DTZ has been involved in a range of projects that include cattle ranching, timber projects, and tourism business.
The political base of DTZ has played a key role in the growth of the Trust’s asset base and it also explains the development of the gold mining project in Penhalonga in partnership with OZGEO (Pvt) Ltd, a Harare based subsidiary of a Russian state-owned company – All Russian Economic Association on Geological Prospecting (Zarubeyhgeogica) to form DTZ-OZGEO.
Apart from providing the financial resources OZGEO has skills in using satellite technology to locate mineral deposits but partnership with DTZ was necessary as this facilitated the acquisition of exploration licenses. In 1995 the company acquired Exclusive Prospecting Orders for gold, diamonds and platinum for a big area covering Chipinge, Masvingo, Mwenezi, West Nicholson, and the Victoria Falls area. The company is currently carrying out mining operations along Mutare River in Penhalonga and in Chimanimani.
The partnership of DTZ and OZGEO meets the requirements of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act that all foreign companies that intend establishing business in Zimbabwe should partner with a Zimbabwean company. Unfortunately however it seems the partnership falls short of black empowerment since very few Zimbabweans are involved and there have been very few benefits to the local community. The mining operations are shrouded in secrecy and there is very little involvement of the local members of the community in the mining activities except providing labour (mostly manual labour).
Very little is known relating to the processing of the gold, which is said to be done by the Russian counterparts only. Any attempts to get information are met with mild but very effective resistance. The information that one gets is the same as the information that would have been given to the news media, which in most cases would not be adequate information. For example, during a media tour on June 24, 2011 DTZ-OZGEO co-director could not give information on production quantities leaving observers speculating that the failure to give this information was because there is illegal trading in the gold.
Speculation on production varies widely from 4 kilograms per days to as much as 8 kilograms per day. The Herald on 14th October 2011 suggested much lower levels of production of about 2.5 kilograms per day so that the company produces slightly less than one tonne per year.
The alluvial mining method is the most environmentally destructive method. Apart from worrying about the environmental damage local community members who had etched a living out of small-scale gold mining have been put out of business by DTZ-OZGEO. The company has taken over mining claims of small-scale miners along the Mutare River. The small-scale miner had been informed that they are not allowed to mine within 30 metres of the river. DTZ-OZGEO was however allowed not only to mine within 30 metres of the river but to mine in the river itself. Members of the community are not happy with this differential application of the law.
Artisanal and Small-scale Miners
There has been in recent years a proliferation of small-scale miners in the Penhalonga area attracted by the shallow depth of the ore. With government’s encouragement to have their activities registered, a large number of the small-scale miners have registered claims. Unfortunately however, there is no consolidated information on the number of small-scale miners that are operating in the area since some are not registered. These claim that they cannot afford the license fees. The Rural District Council indicated that they are aware of a large number of small-scale mines having been opened up. However, the Council does not have details of how many and the quantities of gold they are producing. The council feels that it is being prejudiced of revenue.
The small-scale miners complained of low returns because of two main factors. To begin with, there are no mills in the Penhalonga area. The nearest mills are located almost 30 kilometres away at Odzi and they have to transport their ore there which is very expensive. The second problem is that the stump mills that they use are very inefficient as the miners only get 30% of the gold in the ore. The rest remains behind and it is extracted by more efficient extraction methods by the millers. During the interviews, the small-scale miners complained that they are getting very little from their labours since they get 15 to 20 grams only per two tonne load of ore. In many cases the income is far less than the labour cost, cost of transporting the ore and cost of processing. Small-scale miners explained that in this regard the panners in Mutare River are better off because they do not need a capital investment.
4.2 Environmental Impact of Gold Mining in Penhalonga
4.2.1 Environmental Impact Overview
Gold mining in Penhalonga represents all methods of gold extraction from deep underground mining, to small-scale mining with mines only a few metres deep, through large-scale alluvial mining and the most infamous gold panning. The area therefore is affected by the environmental impacts of each of these mining methods. It is a fact that whichever mining method, gold mining has environmental impacts that one needs to be always aware of. What might differ is the extent of the impact from one method to another. In a rapid appraisal study of community members perception of environmental impacts it was clear that, as was expected the impacts that were said to be important were those that were visible and those with immediate impact. Other impacts that needed laboratory analysis to be identified and those with delayed effects were said to be not that important. People were more concerned with issues that had immediate and dramatic impact, which were visible to everyone. The impacts that were emphasised therefore were as follows:
Water resources degradation
Loss of biodiversity with emphasis on flora
Effects of small-scale gold mining
Issues related to the exact nature of water resources degradation that would involve laboratory analysis of water samples drew little attention; issues related to the effects of more than a century of gold mining at Redwing were not of interest to most people except those who had lost employment because of the closure of underground mining. Similarly issues of groundwater depletion and changes in soil properties only became of interest when these possible environmental impacts were mentioned.
4.2.2 Water Resources Degradation
Water resources degradation is perhaps the most talked about form of environmental impact of gold mining in the Penhalonga area. Discussions have centred on the alluvial mining method by DTZ-OZGEO and the status of the Mutare River. The company is mining gold along the Mutare River in Penhalonga and considerable distances along the river have been replaced by deep excavations and large water impoundments where water is pumped into out of the area of interest.
Plate 3 gives an overview of the areal extent of water resources disturbances. Plate 4 is a close look at the impoundments asking the question of the role they play in local hydrology and the water resources of the Mutare River basin. It is clear that the Mutare River has been disturbed for a considerable distance with no sign of the activity stopping as mining continues to progress eastwards. Mine officials however have indicated that their Environmental Impact Assessment plan includes rehabilitation of the land. They pointed out at the rehabilitation that has taken place in the area they started mining (Plate 3a).
Despite the much criticised disturbance of the Mutare River hydrology it seems the concern is from people outside the Penhalonga community. There is divergent local thinking on the issue since the interpretation the local community took of water resources degradation relates to how their water uses were affected by the mining developments. In old Tsvingwe, situated far away from the Mutare River and with the Tsambe River nearby, they showed complacence on the effects of the mining activities on the water resources. Responses from groups that were interviewed in the old part of Tsvingwe Township indicated a greater concern over the destruction of the reeds and water turbidity in the Mutare River than over water resources degradation.
In the new sections of Tsvingwe however, residents were more conscientious of the effects of mining on water resources. Whilst the large-scale mining companies could be blamed for water resources degradation members of the community were concerned that the degradation caused by small-scale miners was rarely talked about. However, the truth is small-scale miners cause very high water resources degradation (Plate 5). There are many gold panners working in the Mutare River, and some of them working in DTZ-OZGEO area and there effects on water resources leaves a lot to be desired.
Plate 3a: A Satellite Photograph showing the area that has been affected by DTZ-OZGEO Gold Mining Operations in Penhalonga in its first phase of operation. Of note are the large impoundments that are now used as sources for water for irrigation by the mine owners and the large area that is now devoid of vegetation.
The group of panners raised an interesting point. DTZ-OZGEO is licensed to mine to a depth of 20 metres along the river bed. Any depth beyond this would not be regarded as alluvial gold mining. The panners wanted to know whether there were two pieces of legislation, one applicable to them and the other to the large-scale miners such as DTZ-OZGEO. According to the Environmental Management Act no one is allowed to mine within 30 metres of a water course (and hence gold panning in rivers being illegal) but DTZ-OZGEO was allowed to extract gold not only from the river bed but also from an extensive area away from the river bed (Plate 6).
Plate 3b: A middle section also showing water impoundments, loss of river course and
bare ground that needs rehabilitation. Mining has stopped in this area.
Plate 3c: A Satellite photograph of the area that is currently being worked. Note that the
river course has been completely destroyed (top right-hand corner) and the
sizes of water impoundments
Plate 4: A Current water impoundment: underneath the body of water is the course of the
Plate 5: Water Resources Degradation by Gold Panners in Mutare River
Issues that came up after much probing during the interviews were the effect of alluvial gold mining on underground water and whether operations at Redwing have had at any point in time an effect on water resources. Most respondents were of the opinion that there was no correlation between underground water and the gold mining. Only a few acknowledged the dangers of the ground water reserves being quickly emptied. Similarly there was no agreement on whether or not mining operation in the form of reworking the mine dumps had an effect on water resources. The majority of respondents in the groups that were interviewed indicated that the operations did not have an effect. The few pointed out that the chemical treatment might have an effect if the chemicals find their way into Mutare River. These observations support the claim that members of the community were more aware of visible impacts and impacts that had an immediate and often dramatic result. The creeping impact such as falling groundwater reserves and those related to the chemical composition of the water were not highlighted.
Plate 6: DTZ-OZGEO is not extracting gold from the river bed only, but also from an
extensive area away from the river bed destroying the whole river valley.
4.2.3 Morphological Changes and Loss of Aesthetic Value
In all the four areas of Penhalonga were interviews were carried out, people complained about the heaps of earth that were created by the alluvial mining. Community members are also worried about the huge heaps of overburden (Plate 7) that are not only unsightly, but also pose a threat to water resources downstream in case of heavy rains and to life. The heaps are made up of loose material and they are a potential source of sediment that will silt up Mutare River and the rivers into which it is tributary. Related to the overburden heaps are the impoundments that have been created to hold the water back before it is released into the Mutare River. Respondents fill that they have potential for a disaster as the embankments might rapture if there is heavy rains upstream resulting in flooding downstream. It is interesting to note that the mine management is using the old impoundments for fish farming and for irrigation.
Whilst respondents have pointed out the unsightly nature of the heap of earth that alluvial gold mining created, there was no mention of the mine dumps at Redwing. A majority of those who participated in the group discussions were not aware of the unnaturalness of the mine dumps. There are two reasons for this: (i) most of the residents in Penhalonga are relatively new comers to the mine dumps and one has not been created in recent years, and (ii) the dumps are very old so that some are now colonised by vegetation and there look like part of the natural landscape. As shown in Plate 1, the mine dumps at Redwing have given the area a completely different morphology, which has affected the local ecological processes.
Plate 7: Overburden heap in the background of an impoundment of water. Local
communities fear that these can cause disaster downstream if rainfall is heavy.
4.2.4 Biodiversity and Dust Pollution
Because settlements are township settlement types, most people who were involved in group discussions were not worried about loss of bio-diversity. A few old people in the old section of Tsvingwe mentioned the loss of fishing sites but a large number of women in all the nine group that were involved in discussions bemoaned the loss of reeds in the Mutare River. They reported that the reeds played an important economic role to many men and women, some coming from long distances away from Penhalonga to collect the reeds. This is the raw material that is used in basket and mat making. Land preparation for alluvial gold mining entails the complete removal of all surface material that is not connected to the extraction of the gold. It therefore means complete removal of the reeds (Plate 8). DTZ-OZGEO talks about restoration of the land after they have finished mining, but members of the community are asking whether it would be possible to introduce the reeds in this part of the river. It was pointed out that the first section that was mined and is said to have been rehabilitated has been fallow for three or four years, but there is no sign of the reed colonising again.
The issue of reeds is seems important to the local community since it is also pointed out that the destruction of the reeds has something to do with the decreased bird live. The birds’ habitat is said to have been the Mutare River with its thick vegetation cover of reeds. The removal of the reeds, together with the noise and dust pollution has driven away the birds.
Although members of the community appear not to be worried about loss of bio-diversity, they are very conscious of one product of mining that can lead to loss in bio-diversity, which is dust pollution. Nearly every member of the community in Penhalonga is aware of the dust pollution which is caused by the heavy machinery used in the mining (Plate 9). An analysis of the situation however shows that in the townships and areas away from the mining, dust pollution is the result of vehicular traffic. The roads in all sections of Tsvingwe are not tarred and with the soil type (brown earth) any vehicular movement raises a lot of dust. Dust pollution was said to be one of the biggest impact of mining in the Penhalonga area. Some members of community during discussion pointed out the health hazards of dust pollution but the majority was concerned with the loss of aesthetic beauty of the area. All vegetation and other surfaces would be having a brownish colour. Some complained that it was a worst of time to paint one’s house with a light coloured paint as this will soon turn into a brownish or reddish colour. Incidentally, whilst during the dry season the menace on the roads comes from the dust; during the wet season it is the puddles on the road and the effects of heavy vehicles in making the roads sleeper. Driving a small car is almost impossible.
Plate 8: An area being developed showing the reeds that will be destroyed and the overburden in the background and along the fence
Plate 9: Heavy machinery that is used in gold mining is said to cause dust pollution.
4.2.5 DTZ-OZGEO Rehabilitation of Mining Sites
DTZ-OZGEO in their Environmental Impact Assessment report indicated that they were going to rehabilitate the mining area before abandoning it. One central issue which people who participated in group discussion were concerned with in relation to rehabilitation was the restoration of the Mutare River. People were felt that a degree of rehabilitation would have been done if the flow of Mutare River is restored. A majority of community members in all the nine groups that participated in the discussion felt that it was not possible to do this. They cite the failure of rehabilitation works that were done on the first sites of DTZ-OZGEO mining operations.
The rehabilitation that DTZ-OZGEO undertook received great publicity and citing the company as perhaps the only environmentally conscious mining company in the country. The Herald of the 13th October 2011 reports that the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) had commented DTZ-OZGEO for using environmentally friendly mining methods and rehabilitating over 60 hectares of land it mined in the past four years. The Herald of 8th May 2010 had also carried favourable comments about DTZ-OZGEO mining, pointing out that people were happy with the mining and that people are now farming on the reclaimed land. The Standard also carried an article claiming that the miners and mining methods had been applauded by Chief Mutasa of Penhalonga. However the Daily News of 5th February 2012 carries a story that the mining firms had upset Manicaland Communities: “Communities affected by mining operations in Manicaland province have confronted the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) for failing to adequately police environmental degradation caused by mining firms”.
Community members in both Penhalonga and Tsvingwe residential areas expressed dissatisfaction with the rehabilitation works, pointing out that the rehabilitation works were a potential hazard. The main worry was the fact that the soil material that was piled back was loose and could be washed away by heavy rains should these occur. The second fear was that the loose sediment posed a threat to would be “gold scavengers” following behind what is believed to have been left behind by DTZ-OZGEO. Furthermore, the rehabilitation did not take into account the fact that for the rehabilitated land, the soil that formed the top soil should be on top rather than being mixed with the subsoil.
4.2.6 Perception of Environmental Impacts of Shaft Mining at Redwing Mine
There was much comment on the alluvial mining by DTZ-OZGEO partly because it is a new company using new mining technology and partly because the environmental impacts are visible. Changes happening to the environment are seen by everyone and therefore anyone can critique the changes brought about by the mining venture. From the mining technology and the historical development of Redwing Mine the environmental impacts might not be that apparent. It is because of this that community members indicated that they did not think Redwing Mine has caused an environmental damage. The mine has stopped underground operations and the company is simply reworking the old mine dumps.
It is a pity that members of the community are not aware of the wider environmental implication of gold mining or any mining for that matter. The mine dumps that are found at Redwing Mine are not viewed as features of concern since they were made a long time ago. However, although Redwing has suspended underground mining it is involved in reworking the mine dumps. What then becomes of importance is the method of beneficiation that is being used. At the same time, it should be realised that the mine dumps are artificial features with a different chemical composition to the surrounding. Members of the community should therefore be aware of such issues and this requires environmental education at the local level.
It was pointed out above that one of the biggest environmental problems with mine dumps is the formation of sulphuric acid especially if the dump contains sulphide. In a report by EMA at a Workshop that discussed community participation in resource governance, it was reported that water tests had indicated greater degree of contamination for water upstream of DTZ-OZGEO than the water downstream. The reason for this could be because of the chemical recations in the mine dumps. However, as far as communities were concerned, their failure to think of the mine dumps as features with an adverse environmental impact is due to the fact that the majority of those living in Penhalonga are newcomers who have not seen anything else other than the mine dump-riddled landscape. As one respondent commented, “This land appears natural. What can bring all that soil from underground?”
4.2.7 Environmental Impacts of Small-scale Gold Mining and Gold Panning
Similar to small-scale gold mining and gold panning elsewhere in the country, the activities in the Penhalonga area and in the Mutare River and its tributaries have received a lot of criticism from policy implementers and environmentalist. For example, it is reported in The Herald of 14th October 2011 that whilst DTZ-OZGEO can be commended for doing a good job in rehabilitating the area they had mined small-scale miners can be blamed for causing massive environmental degradation. Members of the community are divided on the effects of small-scale gold mining and panning on the environment. The activities of small-scale miners and gold panners were not considered as having negative environmental impacts since they are carried out in pursuit of livelihood options. The group of panners who participated in the discussions on environmental impacts of their activities found it strange that ‘when it is being on a small scale, it is environmental degradation and when it is done on a grant scale as is being done by DTZ-OZGEO then it is not environmental degradation. Small-scale miners in particular were dismayed with the 14th October 2011 Herald report that praised DTZ-OZGEO for good mining practices but blaming the small-scale miner and panner for environmental degradation using mercury in the gold recovery. The miners pointed out that it was misrepresentation since millers were found some 20 to 30 kilometres away at Odzi and if there was any use of mercury, this is where it is used and not in Penhalonga.
Women, especially those in the old section of Tsvingwe felt that despite their protestations, small-scale miners and panners were causing a lot of environmental degradation. The scale of small-scale mining has far exceeded acceptable levels since large areas on slopes of hills around Penhalonga are now scarred with trenches and deep depressions. One has to be very careful when looking for firewood in these areas as one risks falling into these trenches. Although the slopes of mountains surrounding Penhalonga used to be well-wooded, they are now bare because of the wide-spread small-scale mining (Plate 10, 11 and 12).
Plate 10: Extent of environmental damage due to small-scale gold mining; light coloured areas show locations where there is mining while slopes have been burnt to facilitate prospecting
Plate 11: A hill slope showing the extent of small-scale mining to the north of
Plate 12: Huge trenches made by small-scale miners on hills to the east of Penhalonga
Apart from degrading the environment through mining methods, small-scale miners are also blamed for other activities that cause environmental degradation. In discussion groups an issue that was discussed at length was the issue of clearing the land by fire before going in to prospect for gold. Some members of the discussion groups were of the opinion that most of the loss in vegetation was through veld fires purposefully started in order to clear prospecting land.
Plate 13: A veld fire during field work that was said to have caused by small
The issue of gold panners is also a contentious issue amongst members of the community as some supports the activity while others point out that the gold panners are no better than DTZ-OZGEO. Despite the fact that this might be the only means of subsistence for the gold panners, their action is considered harmful to the river ecosystem. Those deriving a livelihood from gold panning have defended the activity pointing out that all they do is working the sediments in the river and not diverting the river as is the case with DTZ-OZGEO. From such arguments, it is clear that there is a lot of animosity between members of the community and DTZ-OZGEO, which if not carefully handled might result in confrontation. There is a strong feeling amongst the gold panners that the company, because of having the capital and government connections took away their source of livelihood.
4.2.8 Other Environmental Considerations
Unfortunately members of the community seem not aware of any other environmental issues from gold mining apart from those with visible impact and those that affect their lives directly. For this reason, the issues of chemical contamination of water and soil were not important. However these are issues that should be examined in the laboratory. The fact that there are no longer any fish in Mutare River was attributed to water turbidity rather than possible chemical pollution of the water. Furthermore most members of the community are of the opinion that since Redwing Mine has stopped underground operations, its contribution to environmental degradation is negligible. Whilst it might be possible that the current activity of reworking the mine dumps might not contribute as much to environmental damage as active mining, there is a possibility that the century or so of mining activities can continue to damage the environment for some time. This is because of the possibility of acid drainage from the mine dumps. It was pointed out above that mine dumps are a source of sulphuric acid especially when the dumps contain sulphide. Perhaps this is the reason why EMA at a Workshop by CRD on “Management of Natural Resources: A Community-based Approach” on 31st January 2012 reported that water tests had revealed water with less chemical contamination downstream of DTZ-OZGEO than upstream, which is downstream of Redwing Mine. The chemical contamination might be the result of acid drainage. At the same time one would expect little or no chemical contamination from DTZ-OZGEO since it uses the placer method of gold extraction that does not require chemicals such as mercury and cyanide.
It was noted during the surveys that views on environmental impact depend on social class with the less educated emphasising livelihood issues and loss of area from which to obtain resources or to produce crops and the more educated and the affluent emphasising health issues and issues such as those pertaining to aesthetic beauty. The Rural District Council argues that it was not involved in the issuing of the mining licences and therefore it cannot interfere. EMA has maintained its stance, similar to what was said at the 31st January 2012 Workshop on “Natural Resource Management: A Community-based Approach,” that they can only act within the legal framework established by the Environmental Management Act and also the Mines and Minerals Act, two legal instruments which are sometimes in conflict.
If one compared the situation in Penhalonga and what is happening elsewhere throughout the world, one would notice that the environmental issues are similar to those confronting communities in developing countries. It seems where the mining interest is foreign, there is a tendency not to take into account environmental considerations and to neglect local communities apart from seeking labour from them. The Penhalonga situation is reminiscent of the Marlin Gold Mine, San Marcos, Guatemala which McBain-Haas and Bickel (2005) coined an abuse of human rights and destruction of the environment. The issue of groundwater drawdown has also been observed as a big environmental problem. The Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (2010) had this to say about groundwater drawdown:
“Groundwater drawdown and associated impacts to surface waters and nearby wetlands can be a serious concern in some areas. Impacts from groundwater drawdown may include reduction or elimination of surface water flows; degradation of surface water quality and beneficial uses; degradation of habitat (not only riparian zones, springs, and other wetland habitats, but also upland habitats such as greasewood as ground water levels decline below the deep root zone); reduced or eliminated production in domestic supply wells; water quality/quantity problems associated with discharge of the pumped ground water back into surface waters downstream from the dewatered area. The impacts could last for many decades. While dewatering is occurring, discharge of the pumped water, after appropriate treatment, can often be used to mitigate adverse effects on surface waters”.
Whilst the problems associated with big mines will continue to confront communities in the Penhalonga area, the environmental issues raised by small-scale miners and gold panners will continue. The United Nations Development Programme (2002) pointed out that although there have been many attempts to improve the economic and social status of small-scale and artisanal miners, this has met with little success. Very little has come out of the many meetings that have been held worldwide in order to minimise environmental damage from small-scale and artisanal mining. The main reason for this being that the increasing poverty is making environmental considerations take second place to livelihood issues.
4.3 Socio-Economic Impacts of Gold Mining in Penhalonga
4.3.1 Socio-economic Impacts – an Overview
Statistical analysis of responses to issues of social responsibility for companies mining gold in the Penhalonga area defeats any method of significance tests because of the unanimity of responses to issues of benefits and sharing of profits with the exception of some of the employees at the mining companies. Given the background of the development of gold mining in the country and the fact that little has changed in terms of the legal framework controlling gold mining, the responses fit the general model – foreign control of large-scale mining with little or no benefit to the local communities. The legal framework in Zimbabwe as explained in Chapter Three does not make it an obligation for any company mining gold to assist in the socio-economic development of communities. Responses from members of the community were a reflection of the provisions of the mining legislation. Despite the lack of support from the legal framework, local community members were still willing to discuss their expectations in relation to socio-economic benefits. It should be pointed out that the Penhalonga experience seem to be what is prevailing throughout Zimbabwe as all gold production is controlled by the same piece of legislation. There is therefore need to examine the issue at a bigger scale than the local scale such as the Penhalonga area.
4.3.2 Economic Impacts
All members of the community who participated in discussions on the economic impacts of gold mining shared the same view that the arrival of DTZ-OZGEO had a negative economic impact. The people in the Penhalonga area have a long history in gold extraction dating back from pre-colonial times. Their expertise in gold mining was affected by the colonial legislation of gold mining and possession but after Independence there was a proliferation of small-scale miners including gold panners in the Mutare River. For a large number of people, gold panning was the main source of livelihood but in recent years this was complimented by the several small-scale claims that have been licensed. However, small-scale mining entail ore extraction and processing which most panners cannot afford. Gold mining activities in Penhalonga are seen as having had a negative effect on gold panners who relied on Mutare River, which now is “owned” by DTZ-OZGEO.
The discussions with small-scale miners and panners was filled with so much emotion that one wonders whether the situation in Penhalonga should be allowed to continue. DTZ-OZGEO is accused of robbing some households of their income, making some panners so desperate that they have now resorting to crime (stealing) for survival.
The loss of source of livelihood has caused a fall in households’ income, a situation that is exacerbated by the fact that the mining companies do not favour to employ the locals. Starting with Redwing Mine when it was called Independence Mine, the majority of employees were not locals but Malawi nationals. It is claimed that the majority of DTZ-OZGEO employees are from outside Mutasa Rural District. This is an important issue with some questioning the wisdom of economic empowerment if the empowerment is not to members of the local communities. It is in this spirit that questions were asked why a Bulawayo/Matebeleland company partnered with a Russian company and not with a company in Mutasa District or at least in Manicaland Province.
Although the general feeling was that local community members were not benefiting as they should from the gold mining, participants in old Tsvingwe wanted a distinction between benefits to indigenous people and benefits to local communities. It is possible to have some indigenous people benefit from the gold mining but the local communities might not be benefiting anything. It was a strong community feeling that all types on miners did not take into account local community needs. The small-scale miners and gold panners were more interested in their families than the community in which they live while the large-scale miners were interested in profit taking and pleasing the shareholders.
The small-scale miners and gold panners were of the opinion that they should be exempt from social responsibility issues since their gold mining was a livelihood and life-sustenance issue. Because of ignorance of what is going on, some members of community felt that Redwing Mine should be excused from social responsibility since there was no active mining. Some however felt that the company should pay their social responsibility in retrospect. Former employees of Redwing who were made redundant on the pretext that the mine had flooded and therefore there was not going to be any mining expressed the need for Redwing to be involved in their welfare.
Despite the fact that the mining legislation in Zimbabwe does not carter for social responsibility, members of the community were expectant that DTZ-OZGEO was going to work with the communities. The expectation arise from, (i) it is a new company and with all the talk about indigenisation and black empowerment, the company should have moved in the that direction, (ii) the license is unique in the sense that the company was allowed to mine where others, with restrictions, derived their livelihood, and (iii) the mining operation have caused visible environmental degradation and it is hoped that the companies one way or the other for the environmental degradation.
Members of the community agreed with Mutasa Rural District Council that the main issue is not individual benefits from the company but community benefit where it is seen a large number of community members will benefit. For example, issues that the company should be looking at are, for example, infrastructure development such as road construction and maintenance. The current state of the roads is that during the dry season they are a source of unbearable dust emissions from the mine’s heavy vehicles but during the wet season the roads become impassable because the roads become very slippery. It is almost impossible to cross the Tsambe River from the old sections of Tsvingwe Township to the new section close to Old West Mine.
Whilst the community feels DTZ-OZGEO is not doing enough to meet its social responsibility obligations, the company claims that it is doing a lot and this is supported by the local news media. For example, the Newsday of 16th November 2011 carried an article reporting that DTZ-OZGEO was ploughing back to the community, providing a list of activities that the company was involved in that had direct benefit to the community:
Approximately 40 hectares of land had been rehabilitated and were now being used for agricultural production
The company had renovated several schools around Penhalonga and was supplying learning materials and school fees to needy children
The company had also given financial support to Robert Mugabe Orphanage in Penhalonga
Other activities of benefit to the community that the company was involved in included building of houses for long-serving workers (to date 15 houses had been constructed); supplying of medical kits and other materials to Old Mutare Hospital; providing ambulance services to community members who wish to be ferried to hospital.
During the Rapid Appraisal, it was established that DTZ-OZGEO had come to the rescue of early closure of St. Augustine’s Secondary School because of many challenges including the school having run out food for the students. DTZ-OZGEO is reported to have bought the food that was required for the school does not close early. It was during the Rapid Appraisal that DTZ-OZGEO was observed participating in social responsibility activities, which were under normal circumstances were police and fire brigade responsibility. DTZ-OZGEO came to assist in a road accident that involved an overturned trunk that blocked the Mutare – Stapleford Road just after the Imbeza Forest turnoff (Plates 14a and b).
A few participants in the discussion groups indicated that they appreciate these activities as part of the company’s social responsibility, but the majority consider these actions as sporadic and only small gestures to what can be considered an act of social responsibility taking into account the issue of “Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources”.
Other activities which the company did were: (i) levelling off of the football field at Tsvingwe High School, (ii) construction of a classroom block at Tsvingwe High School, (iii) repainting of classroom blocks at Tsvingwe Primary School. Both schools appreciate what the company did but officials who were interviewed feel that this is far too small a contribution to community development compared with the profits that they are making. Agreeing with the Rural District Council and members of the community, some education officials feel that the social role that DTZ-OZGEO is playing in society is small and negligible. Perhaps it is the individuals who would have been helped who appreciate these small gestures.
Plate 14a and b: DTZ-OZGEO assisting in a road accident
4.3.3 Social Impacts
The social impacts of gold mining in all cases are intertwined with the economic impacts, as there exists, a causal relationship. An issue that has received a lot of attention is the social implications of resettlement, which also has economic connotations for large-scale gold mining operations. In the Penhalonga area, it is fortunate that there was very little resettlement that took place from pre-colonial or post colonial times. Only agricultural land and other natural sources of livelihood such as areas from which people got fish were affected. It is seen that the alluvial mining by DTZ-OZGEO has deprived them of good agricultural land bearing in mind the rough terrain and limited area that is suitable for agriculture. Such area was found along the Mutare River but because of the mining, it is no longer accessible.
A social impact that is connected to individual rather than community economic benefits is prostitution and loose moral behaviour that has been ushered in by gold mining. This is connected to the effects of migrant workers on the local culture. It was pointed out above that a large number of the mine workers are not local. During the colonial era they were mostly not even Zimbabwean but migrant workers from Malawi.
Employees of the mining companies have a regular income and therefore they are better off than those (mostly locals) without a regular income. The relative affluence has created an opportunity for the proliferation of prostitution. This is aided by the fact that the migrant workers do not share the same culture as the locals and they use money from wages to get what they want. This might lead to the erosion of local culture. Married women in discussion groups were particularly incensed by the issue claiming that the majority of unmarried girls and women who have come to live in Penhalonga area are prostitutes. Prostitution in the Penhalonga area started as long ago as the 1950s at a time when there was massive immigration into the area by foreign mine workers. DTZ-OZGEO only reinforced what other foreign mining companies had already started creating social classes with the class that has the money “abusing” those without money.
Housewives for those who are employed at the mines also indicated an increase in prostitution. This was lead to breakdown in families as husbands join their foreign counterparts in participating in prostitution. Apart from the fear contracting HIV, housewives pointed out that husbands are spending most of the little income they are getting on prostitutes and beer. Some of the girls observed in bars, drinking beer and sharing cigarettes with miners were so young and one wonders why they were allowed to enter to begin with.
In relation to the small-scale miners and the gold panners it was found out that gold mining in Penhalonga area has created a class of people on their own who are not afraid of killing or dying. These gold producers are so violent that a good night out is when there would have been a fight wherever they would have been socialising. Housewives were particularly critical about the small-scale miners, pointing out that they are rude and dangerous.
It is generally agreed that gold mining has profound social impacts when the mine is operating such as prostitution, drunken fights, and cultural defeat. The closure of the mine also has far reaching socio-economic consequences. Some former Redwing Mine workers indicated that the closure of the mine had made them destitute as they did not have their own accommodation and they did not have a pension scheme that they could fall back on. Although some tended to blame the mine owners for not giving these provisions, the majority of the former mine workers who were interviewed were of the opinion that the mine workers should have organised themselves and requested for secure housing and income after closure of the mine. It was felt that employees should make sure that they are given permanent accommodation and that they are participating in some pension scheme of some sort. Incidentally, some of the houses that former Redwing Mine employees used to occupy are now housing DTZ-OZGEO employees.
There was intense debate over whether the growth of Tsvingwe Township, which is partly attributed to DTZ-OZGEO mining and the 400 plus workers is good or bad in terms of local community development. There were differences according to gender and/or gender and age. The youth (both males and females) was of the opinion that such growth was a positive development since Penhalonga might soon become an urban centre. Young married women however view the rapid growth as having a negative impact in the area because of increased prostitution and loose moral behaviour. The elderly deplore the growth, seeing this as the source of increased incidence of disease and death in the community and pointing out that it was becoming an urban centre but it lacked the urban amenities. Indeed the area does not have amenities that would make it an urban area.
4.4 Ownership of Gold Production
The doctrine of Permanent Sovereignty over resources attempted to address the issue of resource ownership and sharing of benefits from the extractive industries in relation to foreign companies and individual states. The Global Mining Initiative (GMI) of the Business Council on Sustainable Development has pointed out, among other things, the need to address issues of control and use of mineral wealth and viewing the need for this from the point of view of protecting and promoting human rights. Even the World Bank has realised that there is need to use the locally available resources for poverty reduction in those communities. These and similar initiatives seem to suggest that local communities should be the main beneficiaries of resources in their localities.
Unfortunately this does not apply to gold mining in Penhalonga where ownership of the mines, let alone the gold seems a closely guarded secret in the case of large-scale miners. In the case of gold panners and the small-scale miners, although the benefits accrue to the individual miner and his or her family, it is still questionable whether he or she owns the mine and the gold. Few members of the community know who owns Redwing Mine and the role played by Metallon Gold at the mine. Few are aware of the ownership changes that have taken place since the 1950s.
The same applies to the ownership of DTZ-OZGEO. Community members were of the opinion that the mining company is owned by Russians but there is participation of some “unknown” Zimbabweans. This is the reason why they refer to the mine as “the Russian mine” and that the Russians are destroying our environment. A few members of the community believed that the mine was the “result of a bilateral agreement between the governments of Russia and Zimbabwe” but since they were not involved in the agreement, they do not know what sort of agreement this was.
Members of the community feel that as far as gold is concerned, it is either foreign owned or it is owned by the government. Even small-scale miners with licenses and the gold panners, they do not own the mines or the gold. A case in point was a small claim that was in the path of DTZ-OZGEO which was over run despite the fact that the “mine owner” had a license. It is further argued that no member of the community owns gold since no one can trade in gold freely.
It is interesting to note that Mutasa Rural District Council is not involved in the licensing of these mines. The MRDC was not involved the setting up of DTZ-OZGEO nor in the takeover negotiations of Redwing between Metallon Gold and some local business people. The MRDC is not informed of the licensing of the small-scale miners, which makes it difficult for the council to collect revenue from the miners or to enforce environmental standards.