Maputo — Farmers in Namanhumbir, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, have accused illegal miners of digging up their fields and stealing their crops, according to a report on the independent television station STV.
Namanhumbir is the site of the largest known ruby deposit in the world. The mining concession in this area is held by Mozambique Ruby Mining (MRM), which is a partnership between the British company Gemfields and the Mozambican firm Mwiriti.
Outside the MRM mine, however, illegal miners swarm, digging up the land in a hunt for rubies and other precious stones. Local communities have protested at this invasion by illegal miners, and at the apparent inability of the police to bring the situation under control.
Illegal mining has spread throughout Montepuez district, but the problem is at its most severe in Namanhumbir. Farmers claim that the miners have stolen almost half their crops.
"They ruin the cassava. They take the maize, the groundnuts and everything", one peasant farmer protested to STV.
Minga Langa, a resident in the Namanhumbir village of Nthoro, said "the miners take everything here. They don't own anything, they live in the bush, and when we are in our houses, they come to our fields and take our crops".
The farmers also say there has been an increase in violent crime since the miners and the purchasers of precious stones descended on Namanhumbir. "We are afraid. We can't tell them to leave because we are afraid", said Pedro Rachide, another Nthoro resident. "Even the police here can't manage to work with them".
There had been a short lived government offensive against illegal mining in the area, but the miners have come back. Norberto Amade, community leader of the Nseue village, said "insults, injuries and lots of bad things are happening in the village now".
But the miners are by no means all outsiders. STV found that local communities in Namanhumbir are also involved in the illegal mining, and men, women and children all take part in the trafficking of precious stones.