…ZELA , a CIVIL SOCIETY Organisation sees Human Rights Impacts Assessments as the new way forward.
By NEVSON MPOFU
The Draft Mines and Minerals [Amendment Bill] addresses in its deep sense issues of Social Corporate Responsibility. It addresses on among others, mineral rights where parliament has its over-sight in licensing, protecting the environment and cultural rights.
The bill also looks at Investments in local community development plans for Infrastructural development, Gender and Equality, strengthening mechanisms and frameworks for transparency and accountability. These results in benefits and mineral revenue shared fairly equal.
Over the past years, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, a civil society organisatioin of lawyers for Environment protection has done much to protect the Environment, which at higher degree is degraded by depletion of the natural environment through mining practices at most by small-scale miners.
Mines and Energy Portfolio Chairperson Temba Mliswa recently at a symposium in Harare pointed out that the bill will see to it that the issues it addresses are enjoyed at community level by everyone. He called for gender equality to be addressed in equity besides equally so that women can benefit in the mining activities in their areas.
Mliswa pointed out as well on community share ownership , a way of empowering especially marginalized communities . Community Share Ownership are proceeds people in an area where mining is done get . It is what they are entitled to get fairly . People in such areas are usually affec ted by pollution , evictions and some form of displacements .According to International protocols and national laws , they have rights to benefit from ongoing mining activities for their empowerment .
In his second point he touched on the way the natural environment is being exploited by mining activities and in return these harm women especially when we look at places where there is tense pollution .In line with this , they are supposed to be empowered with Health Infrastructure and general education on pollution .
‘’We need to look at pollution affecting women and children in the mining areas . These activities mainly are carried by men at their own advantage, at the same time at the disadvantage of women and children.
‘’We therefore say, apart from any harm, women must participate and benefit from the sector. Yes harm is there but those in the mining activity must be in a position to pay those who are affected by the harm. There is need for such mining companies in the mining activity area to build a clinic first, then provide safety clothes, medicines, provide jobs, build necessary infrastructure and do much capacity building
‘’What stands vital than anything is to protect the natural environment from deterioration and finally the extinction of some species. Even where mining is being done and the environment is destroyed, there is need to afforest rate , that is to replace what will have been destroyed ‘’, he said
Coming in the interview circle as a seconder, Environmental Management Agency Chief Communications Officer and Environmentalist Steady Kangata said with the big number of small scale miners and the work they do they need support in terms of mining facilities . Kangata cited an example of miners from Kadoma who have gone rampart in using mercury which affects mainly at greater extent pregnant women and children .
‘’Social Corporate Responsibility should mainly be done to those who are the affected in the surrounding area where mercury is used to extract gold . The affected are pregnant mothers who later face birth complications.
‘’These women need health facilities moral support so that they can be saved . However, these mining companies need the help of the Government. The main challenge is there are no adequate resources .What we can do is policy implementation at national level .
‘’Zimbabwe as a country is currently restricting the use of mercury at mining points . This is controlled through policies put in place by the Government. The control is done through restriction of mercury imports into the country .
‘’We are not banning mercury , but we are controlling mercury . The measures are meant to protect communities since this could be a health disaster because there are no resources to save the affected’’, he said in conclusion .
ZELA Director, Mutuso Dhliwayo said Rights based approaches do not only look at those in the community who might be affected by mining activities. Primarily workers at the mine place need their full rights as related to how they work, protective clothing and what they get.
‘’The environment is always the issue at some levels. Thus why we have the Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] where we need to look at critical issues like how best can dangers be avoided to protect the surrounding environment.
‘’As ZELA we have looked at such critical issues and the environment is surely protected .We have appreciated the work done by EMA in the protection of the environment and best how communities can remain safe.
‘’But there is always one important issue we as an organization we have come up with. This is the issue of expanding from Environmental Impact Assessments. Assessments must save both the human beings and the environment.
‘’We are looking at Human Rights Impacts Assessments. This is when we look at the Health of the worker at the mine and how those surrounding, their families and fellow workers can be saved their lives.
‘’In fact, thus when people get all the necessary facilities, finance and basic resources which make them survive in their respective communities. All this is part of social corporate responsibility in our communities’’.
ZELA has witnessed many developments in Infrastructure in Manicaland Province by Mbada Diamonds. These range from release of a budget of us 420,000 for clean water supply to Chiadzwa /Mukwada community. There was construction of Mufararikwa School in Marange and the maintenance of buildings at a cost of US 200,000.
Besides the development of schools and health centers , farmers were provided with inputs , pipelined water from Odzi dam , refurbished roads , supported orphanage homes and developed sport in schools .A big number of people were moved to Arda-Transau in the same province where a number of standing infrastructure is benefiting communities located there .