Hwange coal dumpsite deaths point to bigger problems


The Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) has learned of the death of two men in Hwange on September 27 after a mining dumpsite collapsed on them while they were reclaiming coal waste for brick making.

The dumpsite is in an area locally known as M Block located in the Hwange Colliery Company Limited concession.

The site was formerly mined by Hwange Colliery Company Limited where it had an underground mine.

Driven by unemployment and grinding poverty, local residents go to restricted areas with the intention to take coke for resale on the black market or to fetch scrap metal.

In this case, the two men, who are reportedly from Empumalanga, had gone to fetch coal waste for brick moulding.

The dumpsites are mine tunnels that were long deserted by the colliery company and the structures of the tunnels have weakened over time and can easily collapse.

This incident is one of many incidences which have claimed people’s lives at coal dumpsites, demonstrating how people are desperately risking their lives in order to eke a living.

There have been reports of people dying of suffocation after the dumpsite tunnel collapsed while several others have been reported injured in different instances.

Earlier this year in May, a woman suffocated to death in a collapsed tunnel and in 2020 two women were shot by stray bullets during a raid by the police as they used live ammunition to disperse people who were gathering coke.

The local people believe that more could be done to properly dispose of the waste by mining companies instead of creating a death trap for the despairing locals who need to earn a living at any cost.

Furthermore, mining companies around Hwange have not done enough to assist the local people including women and youth who could benefit from corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Many people especially women are surviving on retrieving old metals from dumpsites and selling them at truck stops where they are bought and transported to Harare by haulage trucks.

Other women are into quarry stone making whereby they gather rocks and crush them into quarry stones using hammers.

These projects are dangerous and also illegal, but people are risking their lives to earn a living and support their families.

Coke vending is also becoming an increasing concern in Hwange as more people including women are now resorting to it to earn a living.

Coke is used as a fuel and a reducing agent in melting iron ore.

When coke is consumed it generates intense heat but little smoke, making it ideal for smelting iron and steel.

Reports from the local people claim that a 50kg bag of coke is sold for between US$3 and US$5 depending on the quality.

According to Hwange residents, dangerous economic activities have attracted many people recently because of high levels of unemployment especially at a time where the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic challenges.

Local people allege that the coal mines especially the Chinese owned ones have done nothing to improve the livelihoods of local people.

Those employed earn a pittance.

The Centre for Natural Resources Governance defends rights of communities affected by extractive industries in Zimbabwe

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