Unsafe mining operations by Better Brands Mining Company, headed by noted gold dealer Scott Sakupwanya, are reportedly killing miners “every week” at the gold-rich Redwing Mine in Penhalonga.
According to Metallon Corporation, the Redwing Mine played a significant role in economic stability and domestic resource mobilization throughout the years, generating 1.1 million ounces of gold between 1966 and 2004.
Farai Maguwu, Executive Director of the Centre for National Resource Governance, has shown that Better Brands’ present mining strategy violates responsible mining fundamentals and has resulted in employees dying virtually every week.
Last week, two Better Brands employees died in subterranean flood floods at the Rezende Mine in Redwing. This is not the first time, according to Maguwu.
He said that underground mining mishaps are still occurring at the mine as a result of the controversial company’s dangerous mining operations, which include no safety measures.
“….. Since they began operations, many of their employees have perished as a result of dangerous mining procedures,” Maguwu stated.
“Two of its employees died in subterranean flood floods at the Rezende mine in Redwing two days ago. Bodies have been recovered and are on their way to Muchena and Nyamajura for burial.”
He went on to say that the CNRG had petitioned the Ministry of Mines to intervene and halt Better Brands operations in Penhalonga before any more lives were lost. In addition, the environmental expert provided correspondence between the line Ministry and the CNRG.
“We reached out to the Ministry of Mines with a petition to stop the operations of Better Brands before more lives are lost. We did that on 20 July 2022.
“And on the 17th of August, the Ministry responded and said they are looking into the issue and they will get back to us after getting feedback from all the relevant parties. So, we are still waiting. We sent them a reminder just recently,” he said.
In its letter to the Ministry, CNRG pointed out that the environmental destruction unfolding in Penhalonga was now beyond redemption. It further stated that artisanal mining was not supervised by experienced mining engineers and other technical experts.
“An Environmental Impact Assessment was never done for the new model of mining introduced by Better Brands and subsequently no environmental management plan is in place to mitigate environmental damage,” read the letter.
“Better Brands entered into an unwritten production sharing agreement with sponsors and artisanal miners. Better Brands offers gold milling and buying services to the sponsors and artisanal miners. In turn, the sponsors and artisanal miners get paid an amount equivalent to 40% of the gold they produce.
“Some unprocessed sands accumulated from milling are transported to Midlandsfor leaching and the gold recovered is not declared to Redwing Mine. The model of mining employed by Better Brands is against responsible mining tenets in the whole gold mining supply chain.
“The environmental destruction unfolding in Penhalonga is now beyond redemption. Artisanal mining is not supervised by experienced mining engineers and other technical experts.”
This, according to CNRG, has led to increased mine shaft accidents, and at least 5 people are dying in these shafts every month.
“Most of the fatalities go unreported. The surge in the number of artisanal miners has led to an increase in violence and is threatening the general peace of residents in Penhalonga. In October 2021 there were violent clashes between Better Brands miners and the Penhalonga residents,” read the letter.
On the 17th of August 2022, the Ministry acknowledged the letter and promised to provide feedback once all parties are engaged.
“The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development acknowledges receipt of your letter dated 20 July 2021 the contents which have been noted.
“The Ministry wishes to advise your good office that has engaged the involved parties on resolving the issues highlighted in your letter and will provide feedback once all issues have been resolved,” read the letter signed by one Dr. Eng. M. M. Manyuchi, Chief Director of Mining Development at the Ministry.
In July last year, a 35-page report titled Zimbabwe’s Disappearing Gold: The Case of Mazowe and Penhalonga, CRNG claimed that Zanu-PF councillor Sakupwanya was allegedly being sponsored by powerful political elites to buy gold on their behalf in key belts while promoting Illicit financial flows (IFFs) responsible for leakages of an estimated 3 tonnes of gold, valued at approximately US$157 million every month, around US$1,9 billion per year.
It went on to say that a robust network had been established in several sections of the nation, with Mazowe and Penhalonga in particular overseeing artisanal mining.
It was discovered that gold dealer Sakupwanya, a member of Zanu PF’s fundraising committee, was being dispatched by political figures to acquire gold on their behalf while overseeing a network of over 1000 artisanal miners.
Sakupwanya did not react when reached for comment.
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