Metallon Corp. is the largest gold miner in Zimbabwe. It operates the Redwing mine in the city of Mutare, which finally came back online last November after sitting idle for the previous eight years. The firm recently approved a noble initiative as Redwing boosts its output: allocating mining claims to small, artisanal miners in the Mutare area as part of an empowerment program.
However, those that pull the levers of power in Zimbabwe appear to have interceded in the process on behalf of the wealthy and well-connected, possibly denying local communities much of what they were promised.
A total of 288 mining claims have already been given out by Metallon from the Redwing project, totaling almost 12,000 hectares (nearly 30,000 acres) of land to local artisanal miners. (An are is a French measurement of square area equivalent to about 2.47 acres.)
Yet it seems that most of the claims granted have been given to "politically connected" outsiders. Many of the jobs this has created are also going to residents from out of town, affecting local employment.
This prompted a local community board known as the Centre for Natural Resource (CNRG) to hold a meeting to address concerns about few of these claims going to locals.
There were several artisanal miners who spoke at the meeting of the local board and voiced their desire for an additional 500 claims to be distributed. Some miners reported that people from other towns and even foreign countries were the ones who have principally benefitted from the 288 claims. They also complained of environmental degredation and ultimately blamed powerful politicians for influencing the distribution of claims by Redwing.
According to Farai Maguwu, the Coordinator of the CNRG, the government could have formalized the operations of nearly 200 artisanal gold miners through these mining claims. So far, about 60 of these small-time illegal miners have received equipment and assistance in joining the formal economy thanks to the CNRG.
One major point Maguwu made on behalf of these local miners was that they would provide greater tax revenue and investment in the local economy if more of these small-scale operations were brought "above board," so to speak.
That doesn't seem be what's happening, unfortunately.
"We saw elite empowerment where senior ministers from the province [grabbed] the claims meant for [the] poor," Maguwu said.
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