Johannesburg - Australian and Brazilian mining giants are
moving villagers to land insufficient for farming and far from jobs to make way
for coal projects in central Mozambique, and then sidelining local
entrepreneurs as they exploit the region's natural resources, according to a
The independent Southern Africa Resource Watch, which
monitors the impact of mining across the region, sent researchers to study
resettlement efforts by Rio Tinto of Australia and Vale of Brazil, which
recently began mining in Mozambique's Tete province.
In a statement sent to AP late on Wednesday, Vale said it
spent three years working with villagers to plan the resettlements of some 1
200 families. Vale said it was helping farmers in the new villages, and has
built schools, a police station and a clinic in the mining area.
Rio Tinto did not respond to requests for comment.
Villagers protested over the resettlement earlier this
month. The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, which supports the work
of the mining watchdog, said in a statement Tuesday that the protests brought
to light that "Vale and Rio Tinto have treated the people they resettled
without care - indeed with contempt."
Many African countries have been struck by what has become
known as the "resource curse," with oil or mineral wealth fueling
conflict instead of funding development.
While mining can be an important source of revenue for the
impoverished east African country, Southern Africa Resource Watch said in
Tuesday's report, "the impact of both companies' investment on local
communities remains problematic and there is no guarantee that these massive
coal extraction projects are going to genuinely benefit the people of
The watchdog's researchers spoke to Mozambicans who
complained of being moved before promised classrooms and clinics were built in
their new villages, and of having to rely on water delivered by truck because
no other water is available. The new communities are far from the nearest town,
and connected to it by poor roads, the researchers found.
"Local communities are always excited when they see
mining starting ... because they expect to be employed by the mining
company," Tuesday's report said. "But the two companies have moved
people far away - up to 40 kilometers - from the mine, depriving them of
And so far, the report said, Rio Tinto and Vale are buying
goods and services to develop their projects from foreign companies, leaving
local entrepreneurs on the sidelines.
Vale disputed that, saying in its statement that between
2008 and 2011, it had signed contracts with 439 companies registered in Mozambique
and aimed to increase contracts with local suppliers. It said 84% of the
workers are Mozambican at its Moatize Coal Mine in Tete, though it did not say
how many were from the immediate area.
The researchers added that while the new communities had enough
land for houses, they lacked land for farming, the main way most of the
villagers earn their subsistence living. The researchers also said there were
competing claims to the land where the villagers had been settled.