By Marina Lopes
MAPUTO May 23 Human Rights Watch accused
Mozambique's government and foreign mining companies on Thursday
of "serious shortcomings" in resettling communities to make way
for coal mines, leaving thousands without proper homes, food or
sources of income.
In a report on the social impact of a mining boom in the
war-scarred southern African country, the New York-based group
noted the plight of more than 2,000 families displaced to make
way for multi-billion dollar coal mines run by Vale
and Rio Tinto.
Families in the northwest province of Tete had faced
"significant and sustained disruptions in accessing food, water
and work" since being moved between 2009 and 2011, the report
Vale, based in Rio De Janeiro, and Rio Tinto, based in
London, have invested nearly $10 billion in mines in Tete, home
to an estimated 23 billion tonnes of coal, some of the world's
biggest untapped reserves.
Mozambique's off-shore Rovuma natural gas fields are
believed to hold enough energy to supply Germany, Britain,
France and Italy for 15 years.
Human Rights Watch urged the government to strengthen its
regulation of mining investments, broaden community
participation and issue clearer guidelines for future
"Mozambique's government ... should review, and if
necessary, halt, the process of awarding prospecting licenses
and mining concessions to ensure that appropriate sites for
resettlement are available," the report said.
Vale has resettled more than 1,300 households to make room
for its Moatize Coal mine in Tete and Rio Tinto has resettled 84
households at its nearby Benga mine. It is due to resettle 500
more next year.
In early 2012, 500 residents of Cateme, one of Vale's
resettlement villages, took to the streets when cracks opened in
their company-built houses only months after they moved in,
crops failed and jobs at the mines dried up.
This month, the main rail route from the Tete coal fields to
the Indian Ocean port of Beira was blocked by bricklayers
protesting terms of their relocation.
In a statement, Vale conceded that there were "still
improvements to be made concerning infrastructure in the new
communities" but said it was repairing damaged houses and water
The company has also introduced programs to train local
residents on everything from railway operation to agriculture
but often not enough jobs are on offer. This year, more than
6,000 people applied for just 150 internship positions.
Rio Tinto said it took "community engagement" very seriously
and would study the report. In its Mozambique settlements, it
said it had constructed brick houses and ensured they had all