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In pursuit of excellence in journalism

by Richard MgambaThe Guardian
July 29th, 2008

This is the second of a series of articles by finalists of the 2008 CNN and Multichoice African Journalist of the Year Awards.

The article is by Richard Mgamba of The Citizen newspaper and it was published on August 26, 2007. The author emerged winner in the Print General News category.

Feluzi Shija prospers for years as a small scale miner by mining gold at Buzwagi Gold Mine, located in northwest Tanzania, approximately 80 kilometres south of the Bulyanhulu mine.

He is among 600 small scale miners who have been mining gold here for nearly 22 years, before being evicted to pave way for the construction of one of the biggest gold mines there.

But today his life has been put at the crossroads as the government move to welcome foreign big investors who are ready to pour in a total of Shs 520 billion (US $400 million).

After their hopes were ruined by the third phase regime, Shija like most of the small scale miners in the country, was full of hopes.

The current government declared that it was fully committed to develop the sector, which apart from contributing to the economic growth, is one of the creators of jobs for thousands of Tanzanians.

As president Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete embarks on major economic plans aimed at `making poverty` a history in Tanzania during his ten years leadership by committing another Shs. 500 billion to all regions, the ordeals of small scale miners continue to cloud his regime.

This week while in Kahama district on his way to Buzwagi Gold Mine, the Head of State was greeted by placards which carried messages that show how the local people are still disappointed by the much celebrated large scale mining.

But as the `ghost` of Buzwagi Gold Mine continues to cloud the government, their hopes have melted suddenly leaving them with one key question in their mind, whether this regime is really committed to support the small scale miners or not.

While about eighteen months ago, the current regime vowed to defend and develop small scale miners, the decision taken by the same government to sign Mineral Development in London early this year, has forcibly evicted 600 artisanal miners.

According to fresh details, the deal among other things contradicts the government`s pledge to support the small scale mining industry as about 600 miners have been forced to down their tools.

In his defence before parliament last week, the Minister for Mineral and Energy, Nazir Karamagi told the House that the government had hurried to seal the deal in order to create, among other things, 600 jobs by the end of 2009.

He also stated that Buzwagi Gold Mine will yield a total of US $198.9 million to the nation as royalties and other taxes, which is an average of about US$19 million per year.

The controversial mine would also pay a total of US$50.3 million during the ten year period which is its life span.

This is about 16.6 per cent of the total turnover that Barrick projects to earn from the controversial mining, basing on the current gold price fixed by the company at $600 per ounce.

The supporters of this deal say `it is the first project to provide a total of 270 houses for a hundred villagers whose land has been taken by the Canadian based mining giant\', for the purpose of constructing US$400 million gold mine.

``This is one of the biggest gold mines in this country that will among other things create jobs for 600 people�we couldn\'t afford to lose it.``The Minister for Minerals and Energy told parliament last week.

On his words President Jakaya Kikwete was quoted as saying, ``since my time as Minister for Energy and Minerals, I have never seen a project like this.``

But apart from explaining the benefits that will be accrued from the `controversial deal,` the minister didn`t say anything about hundreds of small-scale miners who have been there for over two decades.

According to the Barrick website, the mine will be the second largest mining operation in Tanzania and the largest single open pit in the country.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Citizen on Friday this week, some of the small scale miners from Buzwagi Gold Mine in Shinyanga region, said the government has signed the deal at the expense of about 600 small scale miners who have been there since 1985.

Feluzi Shija who spoke on behalf of hundreds of small scale miners said: ``This regime has again proved that it is against small scale mining contrary to its promise made a few months ago.``

Having discovered the mine about two decades ago, their hopes for golden living has been ruined by the forces of globalisation, which are governed by the world\'s famous rule - survival of the fittest or jungle rule.

``Our cry has been crocodile tears as the government continues to hug foreign big investors and kick us out simply because we are small scale miners,`` he said slowly while lighting his cigarette, to refresh his frustrated mind.

Being accompanied by another two miners, Omar Sekuluma and Charles Masaga, Shija narrated the ordeals of small scale miners in Buzwagi Gold Mine, concluding that `there`s no difference between the current and previous regimes�all of them are anti small miners but pro big investors.``

``We are not against this investment but our concern is how we have been poorly treated and compensated peanut payments�we were the first people to discover this mine about two decades ago,`` he said.

According to details obtained by the Sunday Citizen, on July 13, this year, the Acting Kahama District Administrative Officer M.D. Maganga wrote a letter giving Shija and his colleagues the last chance to agree with the compensation issued by Barrick. Failure to do so and the government would take stern measures against them.

``You are therefore given the last chance to sign the compensation forms presented to you and failure to do that and the government will intervene by taking stern messages against you,`` read part of the letter.

The move, according to Shija, is also against Barrick Tanzania which early this year announced through his Chief Executive Officer, Gareth Taylor, that it was in a bid to support small scale miners in all areas it operates, as one of the ways to boost the country`s medium scale mining sector.

It is also happening nearly ten years since the Bulyanhulu saga, in which over 50 small scale gold miners were allegedly buried alive triggering fierce opposition and condemnation from political parties, local and international human rights activists.

According to Shija who arrived in Dar es Salaam early this week to seek legal advice on how to fight for compensation and other fringed rights, the government forcibly ordered all small scale miners to vacate the areas in order to pave the way for the construction of a 400 million dollar gold mine.

The small scale miners together are strongly crying foul on how the government decided to seal the deal with a foreign mining firm, without first ensuring that their compensation was duly paid as stated by the Mining Act of 1998.

Speaking about the ongoing Buzwagi scam, the company`s Corporate Affairs Manager, Deo Mwanyika, defended the deal, insisting that it has followed all legal channels as required by the government.

However, he admitted that there have been some problems in compensating those whose land has been taken, with most of them saying that amount offered is peanuts compared to the value of their properties.

Lamenting their agonies, Buzwagi small scale miners claim that `their compensation estimates amounting to nearly Shs 13 billion` were rejected by the proposed investors under the strong backing of the government.

``While we were still negotiating, suddenly in July this year, the government organized a village meeting which was fully clouded by armed police and were told to choose between two things: accept the peanut offer from Barrick or be evicted by force,`` he added.

After presenting their proposal to Barrick Tanzania, the Canadian mining giant slashed the amount to Shs. 78.5 million, which on average put the compensation of every small scale miner at the cost of Shs. 133,000.

Barrick has also spent another 1.7 billion for the construction of a total of 207 houses to people who have been internally displaced by the proposed Buzwagi Gold Mine.

According to data released by the Minister Karamagi early this week, this means that Barrick Tanzania has spent a total of nearly Shs. 2.4 billion (US $2 million) to acquire a gold mine with provable and probable gold reserves estimated to be 2.6 million ounces.

Data released by Barrick through its website shows that Buzwagi Gold Mine will have a capacity to produce a total of 250,000 ounces of gold per year valued at US $150 million basing on the current gold price of US $600 per ounce.

``These people (investors) came here under the umbrella of doing exploration and they found us here mining gold in 1997�a few years later after establishing that there are huge gold reserves, we have become the victims,`` Shija further added.

``Tell me where will you find a gold mine at the cost of US $2 million?,`` asked Shija, showing his concern about how the Buzwagi deal was signed without considering the rights of natives who have been mining gold there for about two decades.

This is happening at the time when the state has vowed to review all mineral contracts sealed during the third phase regime, in order to ensure that Tanzania as well as the government were going to benefit from the huge investments recorded in the sector.

The evicted small scale gold miners through their lawyer, Tundu Lissu, from Lawyers` Environmental Action Team (LEAT), are now planning to go to court in order, among other things, to fight for what they described as `their plundered rights.`

Commenting on the saga, Lissu, a legal expert who has been strongly criticising the large scale mining said, ``What amazes me is that all these are happening under the regime that vowed to review all mineral contracts.``

He further added: ``We have reached a stage where we are ready to sacrifice our people in the name of attracting investors�having experienced chaos in the past decade; we thought the ghost of compensation was over now.``

According to Lisu, the signing of the Mineral Development Agreement early in February this year violates the Mining Act of 1998, which among other things placed Buzwagi and other key areas under Primary Mining License (PML).

Primary Mining License is only issued to small scale miners with the conditions that the concerned investors should be Tanzanians, Lisu told the Sunday Citizen.

However, it is not clear how the PML was turned into Special Mining license granted to Barrick Tanzania, after the declaration by another foreign mining company, called Pangea Mineral Tanzania Ltd, that there are huge reserves of gold at Buzwagi Mine.

Bleak future for small scale miners as `jungle rule` clouds the world
Since the introduction of large scale mining in the country in early 1990s there have been a number of conflicts between small scale gold diggers and big miners causing bloody chaos in Tarime, Geita, Kagera region, Mererani and Kahama.

The worse conflict was that of August 1996 whereby about 50 small scale miners were allegedly buried alive by bulldozers of Kahama Mining Company Ltd under the supervision of the Police Force and government authority in Shinyanga region.

According to the official report released by LEAT in 2002, by the end of 1997 there were about 400,000 small scale miners undertaking gold mining in Lake Victoria gold belt but after the introduction of large mining activities the number has dwindled to an average of 40,000.

Things never ended there. in Nyamongo Gold Mine, the clashes between the villagers and the police erupted in August 2001, after hundreds of small scale miners protested their eviction to pave way for the construction of Afrika Mashariki Gold Mine.

In what was then described as restoring security in the area, the government deployed dozens of armed Field Force Units, whereby a single policemen was being paid an allowance of Shs. 20,000 per day.

The history of small scale mining dates back to early 1967 during the Arusha Declaration when the government nationalised all foreign mines as well as suspended the large scale mining in the country.

According to Global Report on Small Scale Mining issued in 2002, the most recent ILO research undertaken on a gold scale estimates that 13 million people are engaged directly in small scale mining activities throughout the world, mainly in developing countries, and the livelihoods of a further 80 - 100 million people are affected by it.

Since then the country`s mining industry was mainly dominated by small scale mining till early 1990s, when the World Bank introduced a paper, wanting the Tanzanian government to transform its mineral policy from what the bank described as `outdated mining to modern large scale mining.` In 1996, just one year after former President Benjamin Mkapa took over as Head of State, large scale mining grew rapidly under the great assistance of the government, outsmarting the small scale mining which was then viewed as a stumbling block toward attractions of Foreign Direct Investment in the mining sector.

Clouded by lack of modern mining technology, expertise and adequate working capital, the small mining sector has found itself becoming a deadly and dangerous business, not only to its key stakeholders, but to the country`s development.

Whether described by the total number of people perished or the agonies they have faced during the past eight years, small scale miners have been facing the dark side of globalisation, with the state seemingly hugging foreign miners who invest in large scale mining.

From Mererani in northern Tanzania to the richest gold belt in Lave Victoria regions, small scale mining, which once used to support the livelihoods of thousands of people across the region, has been ruined dramatically during the past few years, due to the introduction of multinational large scale mining during the past decade.

 

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