A huge chunk of revenue collected by Mutoko Rural District Council is spent on repairing roads and reclaiming the environmental damage caused by companies mining granite in the district, a senior council official said last week.
Council chief executive officer, Peter Sigauke said the local authority was constantly repairing roads damaged by haulage trucks, and reclaiming damages made to the environment which were draining the council of much needed revenue.
He said the US$1 per 30-tonne load levy that they charged was too little to repair damages caused by the heavy vehicles.
"It will benefit the district if it were to be given authority to issue out mining permits," said Sigauke.
Granite mining in Mutoko has been a source of conflict between companies and the villagers, who claim that the firms are causing a lot of environmental, social and culture damage. They also allege that the mining companies have not been involved in any meaningful infrastructural development.
The roads, schools and hospitals remain pathetic.
Councillor for Ward 6 in Mutoko, Taurai Kabasa said: "Granite mining has caused great environmental degradation. the miners blast mountains to extract the granite rocks and leave huge pits that have resulted in the death of people and livestock."
He said: "The haulage trucks that carry granite from Mutoko to Harare leave behind a lot of dust and make noise, while blasting causes vibrations that has caused houses to crack, especially school buildings and houses along the roads."
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has also said most of the companies are not complying with the requirement for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as prescribed by the environmental laws.
Cultural sites like graves and sacred places have not been spared as the miners blast sacred mountains in the area where traditional rituals used to be practised. Locals are also losing pastures and agricultural land to mining operations.
"We have tried to engage the miners, but we are always told that we have no jurisdiction over them. We are often ordered to go and see the Ministry of Mines which hands out the mining permits," said Councillor for Ward 2, Muwanikwa Chindenga.
Mutoko Rural district council lies in the North Eastern part of Zimbabwe.
The district is rich in black granite, a type of rock that is used for decorating buildings, making floor tiles, toilets and kitchen tops and sinks, as well as tombstones.
Black granite mining in Mutoko started in the early 1970s. Currently, there are more than 11 companies mining black granite in the area, two of which are foreign-owned.
It is estimated that about 98% of the black granite mined in Mutoko is exported to countries such as Italy, South Africa, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Argentina, United States and Canada.
District administrator, Cephas Mudavanhu said the local community had not benefitted from black granite mining.
"While the companies are generating a lot of wealth from Mutoko, they have so far failed to take concrete and sustainable measures to ensure that at least the villagers get something from the resources found in their area," said Mudavanhu. "Such measures may include building more schools, dams, repairing the roads and hospitals for the community as an act of corporate social responsibility."
For example, in 2009 Mutoko District produced about 121 000 metric stone of black granite worth US$12 million. Out of that amount, mining companies paid a paltry US$18 400 to the district council in levies.