Foreign mining uprooting Mozambique families

A new report from Human Rights Watch says more than 1,400 families in Mozambique are being moved to allow for Australian and Brazilian coal mining operations.

Mining giant Rio Tinto has established the Benga coal operations in Tete province, along with Brazilian company Vale and India’s Jindal steel.

Human Rights Watch said the mining companies built new homes for the displaced families in resettlement areas.

But many of the families could no longer grow food and had to depend on the companies for monetary assistance, Voice of America reported.

Human Rights Watch researcher Nisha Varia visited the area in 2012. She explained how mining establishments impacted peasant families close to the Zambezi River.

“Many of the people who were moved survived by farming and expected they would be able to do so when they were moved to the resettlement site,” she said.

“What happened is that the land where they were moved to is extremely dry and does not have access to the same water resources that many of them, not all of them, had before.

“One of the biggest problems is that they weren’t able to grow the crops that they were used to growing for their consumption.”

Human Rights Watch said one of the problems is there is a dearth of land in Tete province as more of it is occupied for mining. Almost three-and-a-half million hectares of land has been allotted for mining in Tete province. Along with licenses being processed, that is 60 per cent of Tete, Voice of America reports.

Vaira believes more people will get displaced as Mozambique prepares to take advantage of its coal and natural gas resources north of the country.

But Vale refuted the claims by Human Rights Watch, saying it had handled resettlements with respect for human rights and according to international standards, Adelaide Now reported.

Mozambique became a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in October last year. The initiative asks for mining giants to report what they pay to governments in the countries they operate.

Mozambique Minerals Resources Minister Esperanca Bias said social responsibility must be part of the agenda when mining giants operate in these countries.

 “Mineral resources are not renewable,” Bias said.

 “How they are removed from the surface, [from] underground or [the] water may only be done once, but the impacts of that removal shall forever impact the natural and economic environment.”

A coalition of organisations and individuals is calling for Australian mining giants to publish their payments to governments in which they operate and to be more transparent.

The Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition aims to hold overseas governments accountable for the money that they receive, and to stamp out corruption and conflict in those resource-rich areas.

The call comes in a bid to spread the wealth of resources to the poorest people living in those countries.

Mozambique has the largest coal reserves in the world, with exports expected to reach 100 million tonnes over the next decade. India and China are expected to be the biggest markets.

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