Kuvimba to empower villagers through Community Ownership Share Scheme
Senior Business Reporter
Kuvimba Mining House (KMH) has turned down a request by villagers in Mberengwa District to cede some lithium claims held by its subsidiary, Sandawanna, and would instead empower them through a Community Share Ownership Scheme.
Late last year, about 5 000 artisanal miners and fortune-seekers – including foreigners–descended on the former emerald mine following the discovery of lithium.
Buyers were reportedly paying US$200 per tonne for raw lithium before the Government imposed a ban on the export of unprocessed lithium to curb artisanal mining.
Communities in Mberengwa, through their chiefs, have been lobbying KMH to cede some of the lithium claims along the Mweza Mountain Range under tributary agreements. The 3 882-hectare concession is also rich in tantalite, mica, and emeralds.
Kuvimba was established in 2020 and is 65 percent owned by the Government with the balance held by private investors
Speaking during a stakeholder engagement forum that was attended by 15 chiefs from Mberengwa District, Government officials and KMH management in Zvishavane on Wednesday, Kuvimba chief executive Mr Simba Chinyemba said and community share ownership scheme meant to empower the villagers would be in place by December.
“The irony of it is that if people (villagers) are given the mining claims, they will (still) require investors to do the mining, yet already ourselves (Sandawana) are the investors.
“So, as an investor, we are able to carry out the mining operations on our own. We can’t say we are mining and decide to give the claims to people to mine again.
“If we do that we would have failed,” said Mr Chinyemba. On that issue, we spoke to our shareholders (and agreed that) we cannot give claims. However, there is a team investigating the Community Share Ownership Scheme plan that they have. We can do it by the end of December (and) that benefits the community.”
Mr Chinyemba said KMH would continue rolling out developmental projects under its corporate social responsibility initiatives to uplift the lives of ordinary people.
This is in line with the Government’s National Development Strategy 1 whose objective is to propel the country towards an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
Some of the developmental projects that KMH through Sandawana Mines is undertaking include upgrading the existing clinic to a hospital, relocating Sandawana Primary School from the mine, and rehabilitating the road network in the district.
“Part of our objectives at Kuvimba is to do zero harm (on workers), and to develop our human capital; which requires us to have a healthy workforce and community.
“We are going to buy an ambulance and fix the roads,” said Chinyemba. Sandawana also intends to partner with Agritex in livestock production in the near future. At the meeting, the traditional leaders were led by Senator Chief Ngungumbane who sits in the Chiefs Council and is also chairperson of the Midlands Provincial Assembly.
Some of the chiefs that attended the event were Chief Mahlebadza, Chief Bvute, Chief Mposi, Chief Maziofa, Chief Chingoma, Chief Mapiravana, and Chief Mudavanhu.
In his remarks, Sen Chief Ngungumbane applauded the progress Sandawana Mines has made in transforming the communities within Mberengwa District. “You started your mining operations early this year but you have made tremendous progress as far as development is concerned. “We are really excited as traditional leadership for the provision to upgrade the Sandawana clinic to a hospital,” he said.
“It will also be the first time Mberengwa Rural has an ambulance and we are really humbled by your efforts to uplift the living standards of the communities in the district.”
Sandawana started operation as an emerald mine in 1955 and has now been redeveloped as a lithium and tantalite mine KMH took over the asset in 2019. It resumed operations in January this year and employs 1,200 workers. Prior to the acquisition by KMH, the mine had been redundant since 2010 when production was suspended due to working capital constraints and a reduction in emerald resource.
KMH, with several mining assets in gold, platinum, nickel, and chrome has injected US$56 million towards the reviving Sandawana Mines into a world-class lithium operation.