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Gold Baron Scott Sakupwanya Pampered As Mine Disasters Are Disregarded

Duo nabbed for extorting Pedzisai ‘Scott’ Sakupwanya

The government has suspended Betterbrands (Pvt) Ltd’s operations at Redwing Mine in Penhalonga for the third time in four years, but the watchdog for natural resource governance, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), claims that despite this action, the government has not been sincere in addressing health and safety issues at the mine that have been reoccurring for years.

After 15 workers became trapped below in one of the shafts, the minister of Mines and Mineral Development wrote to Betterbrands on January 5th, pausing activities at Redwing to allow for investigations.

Even though all of the miners were saved, there have been increasing requests in recent years for Redwing to use sustainable mining practices due to reports of appalling working conditions.

Owned by the controversial Zanu PF gold mogul Pedzai “Scott” Sakupwanya, Betterbrands holds over 132 claims in Penhalonga alone. Betterbrands has a significant presence in Redwing Mine’s mining and milling operations.

In an effort to save operating expenses, Betterbrands also hires small-scale and artisanal miners to harvest ore and turn it over to them. This has led to the development of a new mining model.

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In the province of Manicaland, politically linked elites in Mutare and Mutasa have also used Redwing as a cash cow. These elites have been partially responsible for allowing access to mining pits, putting the lives of artisanal miners in jeopardy due to appalling working conditions.

However, in a letter to Betterbrands dated January 5, mining inspector Nomsa Mukudzvavu and mining engineer Vimbai Dzvikiti wrote that the ministry of Mines is opening investigations into the recurring disaster. The letter was also copied to Zhemu Soda, the minister of Mines, Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution, minister Misheck Mugadza, chief government mining engineer Micheal Munodawafa, deputy provincial mining director Eileen Savieri, officer commanding Manicaland police, officer co

“The necessity of carrying out an exhaustive accident investigation to ascertain the events leading up to and following the accident, the harm resulting from the purported ground subsidence, and to enable personnel rescue.”

Govt Urged to Take Action As More Perish at Scott Sakupwanya's Redwing Mine

In addition, suspension is being implemented in order to put mechanisms in place to stop a recurrence.

The failure to account for working staff within the working areas is being caused by a lack of access control and inappropriate clocking in and out procedures. This is against Section 9 (1) (g) of Part 1 on Management and Responsibilities in Mines of the Mining Management and Safety Regulations (SI 109 of 1990), which mandates that the mine manager “ensure that there is a force system to enable determination of the number in the underground working time.”

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The letter claims that some of Redwing’s shafts are not fitted to avoid collapse and that the company has not been following mining requirements, which include keeping pillars between shafts at a minimum spacing of 35 metres.

The letter made clear that Redwing was not in compliance with section 78 of SI 109 of 1990, which stipulates that all shafts must have delimited infrastructure and contours in accordance with SI 109 of 1990, and that Redwing is in need of updated surface and subsurface designs.

“There is insufficient security protecting unauthorised and uncontrolled access to old workings and areas connected to old workings.

According to SI 40 of the 2022 Mining (General) (Amendment) Regulations, 2022 (NO.27), there is a US$375 penalty for lifting the suspension and a US$375 penalty for violating the operating suspension order. The provincial office will lift this suspension in writing following correction, payment of fines, and completion of the accident inquiry.

Also read: Mbinga Patonaz: Gold Mafia star Scott embarks on US$ 2.5 million road rehabilitation in Mabvuku

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The Ministry of Mines’ stated justifications in the letter are not novel, according to the CRD resource watchdog’s study this week, and the government’s recent declaration that it would carry out a comprehensive probe is not credible.

“In 2021, CRD spearheaded a growing chorus of citizens warning the government against the proposed project.” At the Betterbrands EIA stakeholder engagement meeting, CRD continued by highlighting the risks associated with carrying out surface mining operations above abandoned shafts and tunnels at Redwing.

“Part 1 on management and responsibilities in Mines, Section 9(1) (g) of the Mining Management and Safety Regulations (S.1. 109 of 1990) was violated due to inadequate access controls, and the mining method was not meeting mining standards, such as keeping pillars between shafts,” the analysis states.

“The letter also lamented the lack of protection for these areas and the unauthorised, uncontrolled access to old workings.”

According to CRD, the company’s mining operations have been in need of an update for years.

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For example, Betterbrands wriggled out and was given permission to continue operations in January 2023, despite leading a civil society alliance that demanded the government halt the destructive mining activities at Redwing.

“In January 2023, the government closed Betterbrands’ mining operations due to mounting public concern.” However, in March 2023, the government gave Betterbrands another go-ahead to continue the lethal activities. The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) drafted the following requirements under pressure from political elites to allow the mine, which are comparable to the justifications given by the Ministry of Mines in its letter of suspension to Redwing, according to CRD.

In addition, according to CRD, Betterbrands has not complied with the requirements set forth by Ema for reopening following pressure from political elites. These requirements include the acquisition of eight gas monitors, the immediate reinforcement of access control through the enclosing of mining areas, and the implementation of a clocking-in and -out system to guarantee accountability in accordance with mine management and safety regulations (109 of 1990 and Statutory Instrument 72 of 1989).

ALSO READ: Scott Sakupwanya Ordered By The EMA to Halt Operations at Redwing Mine

Betterbrands was also directed by Ema to install efficient waste management systems, dust suppression techniques, and standard restrooms, all the while making sure that workers were properly clothed in safety shoes, helmets, and working shaft gate protection.

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“Betterbrands has largely failed to meet these requirements, which is why there have been more tragic mining incidents at Redwing Mine. It goes without saying that because of the proximity of the mining activities to the Mutare River, the firm committed to complying with certain regulatory documents on waste disposal, air pollution assessment, and annual water tests.

In their government-approved EIA plan, they pledged to comply with the Hazardous Substance Act, Public Health Act, Gold Trade Act, and Labour Act, among other legislative laws, according to CRD.

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