Maputo — The Mozambican Bar Association (OAM) has demanded that coal mining companies in the western province of Tete be held responsible for their failure to resettle people affected by their activities.
The companies in question are the Brazilian mining giant Vale, which operates an open-cast mine in Moatize district, and the Indian comp any Jindal, which is working in Marara district.
According to a statement published on Thursday, the OAM has already requested the Administrative Tribunal to order the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development to collect fines from the two mining companies for their failure to comply with the approved resettlement plan.
The fines would be enormous, at 10 per cent of the total value of the Vale and Jindal undertakings. The OAM says such a fine is covered by the August 2012 regulations on resettlement arising from economic activities.
The OAM has been monitoring the situation of communities affected by the foreign investment mega-projects, and it found that the resettlement of households affected by Jindal's mining activities has not happened at all. These households, the OAM statement points out, "are still living within the mining concession area granted to Jindal, in an environment of pollution which endangers their lives".
The Tete Provincial Administrative Tribunal in 2017, and the national Administrative Tribunal, in June this year, both ordered Jindal to resettle the households affected, but to date it has not done so.
Vale did resettle some of the communities affected by its Moatize mine, but that resettlement has always been vigorously contested as shoddy and unjust. The OAM points out that negotiations are continuing with the affected communities to ensure the payment of fair compensation.
The cases of these two companies, the OAM argues, "represent the paradigm of unjust resettlement, marked by illegalities and violations of the fundamental rights of the households affected, particularly the right to land, decent housing, food security and sources of livelihood".
The OAM says such cases are clearly covered by the 2012 regulations on resettlement issued by the government, and it is up to the government to penalise the companies that defy those regulations.
But to date the government has declined to use its authority. The OAM accuses the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development of "choosing to nourish the impunity of Vale and Jindal", which perpetuates "the precarious living conditions of the communities affected".
In Moatize, a community that has not been resettled took matters into its own hands and shut down part of the Vale mine, known as "Moatize-2", on 4 October because of the noise and dust pollution it was causing.
People living in the Moatize neighbourhoods of Bagamoyo and Nhantchere invaded the mine to force a stop to the explosions there. The demonstrators succeeded in halting the machines that were working at the time, in one case by hurling a rock through the windscreen.
The protestors want the mine to be closed definitively. Alternatively, the households affected could be resettled far away from the coal dust which threatens them with lung diseases. In addition to the dust, they say that the explosions in the mine cause vibrations which are damaging their homes, causing cracks to appear in the walls.
The standoff continued this week when the protesters refused to allow the company to carry out experiments with machinery that would supposedly reduce the impact of the vibrations.
According to a report in the Moatize online paper "Malacha", the machines were moved in without first informing the community. In vain did Vale representatives tell the protesters that they were not restarting mining operations, but merely testing new equipment, in the presence of specialists.
The community, which had banned the movement of any machinery the previous week, refused to change its position, and gave the company half an hour to stop the machines.