SANDAWANA Mines lithium project in Mberengwa District, has been endorsed by the traditional leadership on the back of the firm’s strong pledge for rapid economic development and uplifting the locals’ living standards.
With an extensive history dating back to 1955, the asset that has exchanged ownership over the years when emeralds were first extracted at the mine, is being resuscitated by Kuvimba Mining House (KMH) that acquired Sandawana in 2019.
The lithium and tantalite mine was re-opened by KMH in January this year when production had been suspended in 2010 due to working capital constraints and a reduction in emerald demand.
Since the acquisition by KMH, the investor has injected US$56 million towards revamping and transforming Sandawana Mines into a world class- high grade lithium operation.
The mine has outlined a four-phased exploration programme with the first phase that is almost complete having started in January this year.
Following its re-opening, Sandawana Mines employs 1 500 people including jobs by the contractors and 80 percent of the job opportunities are occupied by the locals.
Speaking during a stakeholder engagement event at Sandawana organised by KMH on Sunday, Senator Chief Ngungumbane, who serves in the Chiefs Council and is also chairperson of the Midlands Provincial Assembly, commended the investor for giving first preference to locals on employment opportunities.
The event was attended by Sandawana Mines workers and villagers from local communities as well as 15 chiefs from Mberengwa District among them, Chief Mahlebadza, Chief Bvute, Chief Mposi, Chief Maziofa, Chief Chingoma, Chief Mapiravana, and Chief Mudavanhu.
“Since taking over Sandawana, you have indicated that a total of US$56 million has so far been invested towards reviving operations at this mine, something which we also commend you for.
“For the past four years you have been on the ground, we are seeing employment opportunities created as a result of your operations being given to the locals.
“You also have indicated that you have got a project that you intend to roll out where the road from here (Sandawana) to West Nicholson Siding in Gwanda, Matabeleland South Province will be tarred.
“But my plea to the investor is that while your trucks also use other routes within the district, as communities we look forward to seeing all the routes being tarred, and that would be the first phase of the envisaged rapid development to be rolled out in three phases in the district,” he said.
Sen Chief Ngungumbane highlighted that as the mine is developed, villagers at Sandawana and the surrounding communities should brace for development-induced displacement where KMH comes up with a development-induced displacement policy.
Through such a policy, the investor should be able to compensate and relocate the affected families within this vicinity to better areas where there is limited noise pollution and environmental pollution.
“We also expect that Sandawana Mine School and homesteads currently in the mine will be relocated from the existing locations to a better area.
“As the investor relocates and constructs new homes and the school, we expect that ideal model home will be constructed.
“It has happened elsewhere in Marange, Manicaland that when people were relocated to pave way for mining operations by one of the diamond companies, it happened that there was poor workmanship of the residential infrastructure by that company.
“Under your rapid development programme, we expect that the investor will develop social amenities.”
Sen Chief Ngungmbane said Kuvimba should also prioritise the Government’s devolution agenda whose tenets are premised on leaving no-one and no place.
“While we acknowledge the strides that the company has made in employing the locals, as traditional leaders we are saying the investor should source its goods and services from local suppliers.
“Where specialist services cannot be sourced locally, that’s when you can award tenders to contractors or suppliers from elsewhere across the country,” he said.
The endorsement by the traditional leadership in Mberengwa puts the district on path to be transformed to a town status by KMH where banking services among others would be attracted, curbing the current situation where Sandawana Mines employees and other people in general travel to Zvishavane to access basic services.
“It is also one of our great expectations that Kuvimba will build, own and operate a solar power plant that will supply electricity to Sandawana as well as the community.
“So far as a company you are drawing water from the existing Wanezi Dam, we look forward to seeing you rehabilitating that dam as well as investing in a new dam or dams as well as providing your workforce with decent accommodation with tapped water and electrification. It is also our appeal that the investor will prioritise drilling boreholes across the whole district because at the moment due to issues of climate change, and that the district falls under the natural regions 4 and 5, which are dry, water has become a threat to national security,” he said.
In an interview, Sandawana Mines general manager Godwin Gambiza hailed the gesture by the traditional leaders in Mberengwa saying his organisation would sit down to see how best they can strive to meet the community’s expectations.
“We might then rank them and see how we can then start to implement those resolutions.
“From what we heard, some are short-term while some are medium-to-long-term expectations.
“Like we have indicated before, some of our projects that we are undertaking include the US$110 road rehabilitation and maintenance programme and a 60MW solar power plant project to the tune of US$100 million.
“Feasibility studies for the power plant are already underway,” he said.