Sixty per cent of the land of the Tete Province is being explored by private companies as potential coal mining sites. The Tete provinces is said to be the “largest undiscovered coal province in the world and it is estimated that the Province could be producing 25% of the world’s coking coal by 2025.” ( Wikipedia).
The government and mining corporations are very excited by this great discovery and international investors have already poured in billions of dollars into mining activities.
But what does this mean for the people of Tete, a very poor rural community who depend on the same land to produce their basic needs.
The AAJC an activist’s organisation in Tete is very worried. They know from from experience that communities will undergo great disruption and continuous suffering.
In September the Bench Marks foundation teamed with the AAJC in a first of a series of workshops to assist mining affected communities tell their stories of struggle with mining corporations.
It is hoped that these workshop will be part of an on-going organising process in which communities will sharing ideas and tactics on how engage with government authorities and mining corporations.
Here are some brief statements by community leaders attending the workshop.
The community of Chipanga
We were an independent community when we lived in Chipanga. We kept cattle, we planted crops. We made bricks, we collected firewood form the forests and made our own charcoal. We had access to the rivers and water fountains. Our cattle could drink in the rivers. We even had a hot springs in which we bathed.
We had 3 churches, schools. In our cemetery many generations of our ancestors were buried.
Then the Coalmines came. The community Chipanga after resettlement lost their source of livelihood, their culture and their natural resources
The resettled community of Cateme
We were located from Chipanga to Cateme. The community found that conditions where not as promised. The people were promised jobs in the mine. They believed that this would make up for their loss of livelihood when they were resettled. But no jobs came, except for a very few.
The houses were of poor standard. Many of them cracked easily. Their houses were build on a plane that flooded in the rainy weather,
The land we were given for agriculture had very poor soil. We were required to use a lot of fertiliser to grow their crops. This made agriculture very expensive for us. We were located a long distance from the river.
We protested about these conditions but were met with the force of the police. Many activists where arrested.
The resettled community of 25 de Setembro
We were relocated by Vale the Brazilian mining corporation
Before resettlement life was normal in our community.
The people practiced their activities in a free form, they cultivated fields, collected firewood, made charcoal, manufactured clay bricks to build houses. We had schools hospitals, football field and a very busy market where we could sell our goods and buy cheaply. We lived humble lives but very dignified.
After resettlement we have very badly built houses, no space for recreation and no land for cultivation. We have no access to employment. The mine promised to employ people but did not.
We have been treated inhumanly .We would like to go back just to have the peace that we had before.
The community of Bagamoyo
We were not relocated but sections of our land were taken away. Even though they gave some of us compensation, we lost a lot. The community of Bagamoyo is located alongside a Vale mine. We breathe the dust from coal mining operations. The big machines operation 24 hours creating unbearable noise.
The fields on which we farmed, collected firewood and used for brick making have been taken away from them. We lost many orchards of mango trees and other fruit.
Recently the mine built a fence to restrict our entry to fields we had use of many generations.
When we protest we are met by the police and mine security.