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Zimbabwe: Chinese mining investors have exhibited a history of bad safety, environmental, labour and human rights standards; ZELA

Author: Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA), Published on: 24 June 2020

‘ZELA Press Statement on the shooting of two miners at Reden Mine-Gweru’ 24 June 2020

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) condemns the shooting of two gold mine workers, Wendy Chikwaira and Kennedy Tachiona  by their Chinese Mine employer at Reden Mine in Gweru on the 21st of June 2020. Video, audio and picture images of the shooting incident were widely circulated on social media. A dispute allegedly occurred over outstanding wages and working conditions at Reden Mine. The mine owner is said to have shot the two at point blank range after they demanded their outstanding wages. Both workers sustained injuries, with one shot on the chin while the other who was shot in the leg and thigh remains in hospital.

… To us, this incident is part of a systematic and widespread pattern of labour rights violations by Chinese companies and investors in the extractive sector. In many parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, Chinese mining investors have exhibited a history of bad safety, health, environmental, labour and human rights standards. Poor working conditions at Chinese companies are an old problem that is increasing. Mine workers at Chinese mines often work in very dangerous, harsh and life-threatening environments. Despite the hard work and toil, the workers share little of the profits made by the mine owners in wages, social protection and other benefits. A 2012 study by South Africa Resource Watch which investigated Chinese labor practices in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo revealed that Chinese companies have engaged in widespread labor abuses and have subjected local employees in the mining industry to harsh and unfair working conditions.

… From a safety and health perspective, many Chinese companies have appalling housing and sanitation facilities. Provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is often intermittent while medical check-ups for workers as prescribed by the law are erratic or non-existent. As a result, workers are often exposed to disease causing environmental, safety and health elements such as noise, dust and hazardous chemicals and substances. Mine accidents are also commonplace. From an environmental perspective, many Chinese companies start operations without conducting Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) to identify and address any potential negative environmental and social impacts of mining operations on communities and workers as required by the law.

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