Anjin Investments, Marange Resources & Diamond Mining Corporation lawsuit (re water pollution)
Snapshot: In September 2012, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association and a group of Zimbabwean villagers living along the Save River filed a request for a court order to stop Anjin Investments, Marange Resources, and Diamond Mining Corporation from discharging untreated waste material into the Save river.
Anjin Investments, Marange Resources and Diamond Mining Corporation are mining companies involved in diamond exploration and mining in the Marange communal lands. The companies have been accused of discharging untreated waste material into the Odzi, Singwizi and Save rivers. These discharges have heavily polluted the rivers, causing them to become “silted, muddied, dirty and loaded with chemical and metal deposits including iron, chromium and nickel”.
Villagers living on the banks of these rivers heavily depend on the rivers for their subsistence (e.g. using the water for drinking, fishing and watering livestock). However, as a result of the pollution, the river water is no longer fit for such purposes. The pollution has also destroyed aquatic life and disturbed the ecosystem in the rivers. Lastly, a biological and chemical study carried out by the University of Zimbabwe on behalf of ZELA in July 2012 confirmed that these discharges exposed the villagers to risks of contracting diseases such as cancer, cholera, typhoid, dental and skeletal fluorosis.
On 23 July 2012, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) wrote to Anjin demanding that the company cease discharging the pollutants into the rivers.
However, in a letter dated 26 July 2012, Anjin denied discharging pollutants into the rivers. The company also claimed to have constructed 20 sedimentation ponds used to filter the water so as to prevent pollution.
Complainants requested a court order which would prohibit the mining companies from releasing waste discharges into the Odzi, Singwizi and Save Rivers.
Alternatively, the plaintiffs contended that the waste discharges constitute a nuisance which hinders them from enjoying the usage of the public rivers as they have traditionally done for many years. Furthermore, the discharges by the defendants were said to be unreasonable and unlawful because the defendants are obliged to treat and contain their waste material before discharging it into public water bodies.
In September 2012, ZELA and five Marange residents filed a lawsuit against Anjin Investments, Marange Resources, and Diamond Mining Corporation.
In response, the defendants challenged the application by bringing a special plea alleging that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter and it ought to be heard by the Environmental Management Agency. They also contended that an interdict should not be granted as there is an alternative remedy under 10(1) (b) (xiii) of the Environmental Management Act (EMA).
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On 17 June 2015, the special pleas filed by the defendants were dismissed by the High Court of Zimbabwe. The court found the jurisdictional argument without merit. Furthermore, the court highlighted that the defendants failed to argue that the EMA has the power to issue declaratory orders, which is the relief sought by the plaintiffs. Lastly, the court held that the plaintiffs had a “direct and substantial interest in the subject matter”. Accordingly, the special pleas by the defendants were dismissed with costs.
The case will now be heard on its merits.
- Abuse, displacement, pollution: the legacy of Zimbabwe’s Marange diamonds, Mongabay, 15 March 2016
- Marange mining firms sued over pollution, DailyNews Live, 21 June 2015
- Villagers sue diamond firms for pollution, The Standard, 9 September 2012
- The Pollution Fallout From Zimbabwe’s Blood Diamonds, Yale Environment 360, 24 May 2012
- Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association and Zakeu Nhachi and Rosemary Maruwa Jena and Elias Matsveruka and Mayimboti Mayimboti and Isaac Ziwenjere v Anjin Investments Limited and Marange Resources Limited and Diamond Mining Company, 17 June 2015
- ZELA & Others v Anjin Inv. (Pvt) Ltd & Others (HC 9451/12)  ZWHHC 523 (16 June 2015), Zimbabwe Legal Information Institute