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Penhalonga mining activities suspended as fatalities soar

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Penhalonga mining activities suspended as fatalities soar


Martin Muleya


Mutare – Better Brands Mining, a company leasing claims from Redwing Mining Company in Penhalonga near Mutare has been forced to suspend its artisanal mining activities due to soaring fatalities and serious environmental degradation concerns.

The move is confirmed in a letter dated January 20, 2023 written by Better Brands to stakeholders and signed by a Mr Guyo, the mine manager.

However, environmental activists condemned the move as a ploy by Better Brands to hoodwink the world into thinking that it is doing something about compliance and yet nothing is happening.

Illegal mining activities at Penhalonga in the 1 254 hectare claim have gripped the entire civic society organisations in Mutare and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) because of their blatant violation of environmental and mining regulations.

It is understood that illegal miners are dying every week in mining accidents but a lot of those accidents are concealed. Environmentally, the illegal miners are accused of destroying the environment and polluting the river through their mining activities.

Last Friday, EMA took at least 10 media houses on the tour of the mine and complained that it has issued many tickets and given many orders against Better Brands Mining but violations have actually escalated over the years.

EMA Manicaland provincial officer Kingstone Chitotombe told journalists during the tour that the remaining option is to remove the illegal miners using the Police and Army.

Better Brands Mining is owned by Zanu PF councillor for Mabvuku/Tafara in Harare Pedzisai Scott Sakupwanya.

Sakupwanya’s mobile went unanswered when asked for a comment.

Sources told Chipinge Times that the mining arrangement is that Redwing Mine which is owned by Metallon Gold Corporation leases its claim to Better Brands which in turn leases mining areas to dozens of artisanal miners who are dotted all over the claim.

These artisanal miners, said the sources surrender 60% of what they produce to Better Brands.

“Better Brands Mining hereby advises its valued stakeholders that all surface mining operations shall be suspended with immediate effect, mainly due to concerns in the increased number of fatalities, environmental degradation and constrained access controls.

“Better Brands mining shall take this opportunity to restructure and rehabilitate the mining field in preparation for resumption of surface and underground mining operations,” read the letter signed by Guyo.

“The challenge we have with Better Brands Mining is in its non-compliance. We have been giving them orders to comply with environmental rehabilitation, we have issued tickets and opened dockets but again all this has been a process. It is not something that we can say we have managed to accomplish,” said Chitotombe.

A former Better Brands operations manager who is now an artisanal miner at Penhalonga Godknows Boman urged EMA officials to be always on the ground to monitor and enforce compliance amongst the artisanal miners. He said this move will minimize the number of fatalities being experienced at the mine.

“What I know as a miner is that the mining holes should be separated by about 30metres but this is not being implemented because people from different walks of life are being recruited to do surface mining activities. However, the layout and plan to be followed on this mine is there and it ought to be followed, it is deliberately not being implemented because there is minimum enforcement of the law, which has had a negative impact on us,” said Boman.

Centre for Research Development (CRD) director James Mupfumi said the temporary suspension of Better Brands surface mining operations is just to hoodwink the world that they are doing something yet they will reemerge in the next few days and conduct operations in violation of rules and regulations.

“It is a temporary suspension meant to fool the country from demanding accountability. It has happened twice with lies on promises to return to safe mining methods,” said Mupfumi.

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