Maputo — The human rights organisation Amnesty International has accused the Chinese mining company Haiyu of violating Mozambican and international law in its operations in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, where it is extracting titanium minerals.
In a report entitled “Our lives are worth nothing”, unveiled at a Maputo press conference on Wednesday, Amnesty says Haiyu was responsible for floods in the coastal village of Nagonha, in 2013, which destroyed 48 houses and left 290 people without a roof over their heads.
The other 1,000 or so people living in the village are also under threat, warned Amnesty's researcher for southern Africa, David Matsinhe.
Haiyu began its operations in 2011, and Matsinhe said that a comparison of satellite images taken between October 2010 and October 2014 showed how the Chinese company had ruined the wetlands behind the village.
Haiyu's activities filled the marshes with sand, and blocked up the channels which took storm waters to the sea.
When the heavy rains of early 2015 arrived, Haiyu opened a new channel in the middle of the community, and the ensuing flood destroyed homes and vegetation. It swept away wild fruit trees, medicinal plants and small lakes where villagers once fished.
Amnesty believes that Haiyu's operations violated Mozambican legislation on mining, on environmental protection, and on the resettlement of people affected by mining. It has urged the Mozambican government to investigate Haiyu's breaches of the country's laws.
Matsinhe added that Amnesty hopes the government will ensure that the Nagonha community is compensated for its losses. “A wetland was destroyed, and that wetland must be restored so that the residents can continue to live their normal lives”, he said. “The community isn't begging for charity. It just wants its lands restored, and fair compensation under Mozambican law”.
The chief of the Nagonha region, Lopes Cocotela, told reporters that the arrival of the Chinese company was sudden and unexpected.
“The first representatives of the company came to my community is 2011”, he said. “It was a surprise - nobody had warned me. There was no consultation with the community”.
After the 2015 flood destroyed the houses, Haiyu offered compensation ranging from 4,000 meticais (just 65 US dollars) for houses built of flimsy materials to 20,000 meticais for homes made of brick.
The Mozambican anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integity (CIP), which assisted Amnesty in the report, argues that the government should immediately slap an embargo on mining operations at Nagonya, to ensure that the company obeys the law.
CIP representative Fatima Mimbire said the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, should set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the case, with a view to introducing reforms to mining legislation to ensure that nothing similar can happen in the future.
She added that the Attorney-General's Office should also act to see how it was possible for a substantial mining operation to begin its activities without an environmental impact study.