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Leonard Ncube recently in Binga

THE construction of homes for families displaced by the setting up of a coking coal production plant at Muchesu area in Binga has started with close to 20 houses now at roof level.

Now renamed Muchesu Coal, the new Lubu Coal Project, is being carried out by a London-listed natural resource development company, Contango Holdings.

By exploiting its huge untapped coal deposits, Binga, which shares the borders with Hwange, Lupane, and Gokwe districts is primed to leapfrog past development hurdles and increase its contribution to the mainstream economy through enhanced economic activities covering mainly tourism, mining, fishing, and agriculture.

The investment comes at a time when the Government under the Second Republic is taking deliberate steps to mainstream speedy development of Binga in line with the devolution agenda, which aims to ensure inclusive development across the country. Contango Holdings has already taken delivery of critical mining equipment and key accessories on site, and focus is now on speeding up plant assembly processes in readiness for the targeted commencement of production.

Efforts are also being made to make sure the more than 40 homesteads under Chief Sinakoma that are set to be affected by the mine are relocated before operations begin.

While relocation can be unpalatable for some villagers, the presence of the mine is expected to trigger a string of economic spin-offs for the community including job creation while boosting Binga’s gross domestic product and the country’s energy sector, as well as exports.

Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Richard Moyo, said the relocation of villagers was in line with the Government’s approach of making sure no citizens suffer.

“All is going on well, they have started mining operations and also started building houses for the dislodged villagers,” he said.

“We are told the houses are nice and we will be visiting the place soon. People are happy according to the reports I am getting and this is in line with the Second Republic vision of uplifting people’s livelihoods.”

A Chronicle news crew visited the area recently and observed massive preliminary exploration and excavation work taking place. Workmen were busy clearing and opening roads while mine equipment could be seen from afar being assembled and ready for use. There are some homesteads that are still within the mine site and newly created roads pass a few metres from the homesteads posing serious dangers of pollution once operations start before they are moved.

Inquiries revealed that there are about 20 homesteads that will be relocated in the first phase and 20 more in the second phase. Homesteads along the main road to Kariyangwe including Muchesu Secondary School will not be affected although they are a few hundred meters from the mine boundary.

The new homesteads are being constructed in a valley north of the mine and comprise three-roomed houses, which are at roof level, two round-thatched huts and a toilet. 

Workmen had started putting trusses on some of the houses.

Some of the families living within the mine site have since moved to the new stands where the company pitched some tents for them while waiting for the completion of the new houses. These moved three weeks ago and the company supplies them with water using a bowser. Others are staying together in different tents and will separate once the homesteads are complete.

A woman who identified herself as Na Omara from Dimbo village said she was eagerly waiting to relocate to her new home.

“We are happy the mine is building houses for us and once they are done we will move to the new site. We were affected by the mine and they pegged stands where they are building stands for us where we will move to but we know there will be jobs for our children once it starts functioning,” she said.

The project covers 19,236 hectares of the highly prospective Karroo Mid Zambezi coal basin, located in established north-western Zimbabwe.

Contago Holdings has said it will use part of its share capital for the agreed relocation of households from the mine site. Relocation of households from the mine site provides a larger footprint for the mine and operations to meet heightened demand. There are several homesteads that are still closer to the mine exposing them to risk of pollution. The mine has rehabilitated the road from Manjolo to Muchesu. — @ncubeleon 

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