Local artisanal miners assaulted Chinese nationals operating a gold mine in east Zimbabwe with crowbars and shovels this week, leaving them with serious injuries, New Zimbabwe reported on Thursday.
“One of the Chinese is reported to have sustained broken ribs while the other one lost a finger as he tried to block his face from a shovel attack,” the newspaper revealed, adding that the physical state of two additional Chinese nationals involved in the incident remains unknown.
“The irate artisanal miners, popularly known as Makorokoza, are reported to have used an assortment of mining tools including crowbars, picks and shovels to attack the Chinese nationals,” New Zimbabwe added.
A local environmental rights group named Center for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) confirmed that the incident took place at the Premier Estate mining site in Mutasa District, Manicaland Province. An unknown number of Africans were mining for gold in a tunnel operated by the Chinese Zhong Jian mining company when they were approached by a group of Chinese Zhong Jian employees, according to CNRG. The Chinese nationals ordered the African miners to vacate the site, explaining that they planned to fill the tunnel with an excavator.
“The Chinese are reported to have told the artisanal miners to leave as they had a permit to mine at Premier Estates,” New Zimbabwe noted.
“This angered the artisanal miners who called for a back-up from their colleagues working along Mutare River and attacked the Chinese miners,” CNRG said in its statement. The Africans reportedly “spared” a Zimbabwean excavator driver who accompanied the Chinese nationals from the physical attack. Local police were called to the mining site following the altercation but the attackers had fled the area by the time the officers arrived. Police subsequently arrested six people in connection with the incident.
Zhong Jian’s Premier Estates was the site of a previous controversy on November 15 when “ten illegal miners were allegedly buried alive” in a tunnel on the property, Africa News reported at the time.
The site’s Chinese operators were filling pits on the site as part of a land reclamation exercise when miners who were working in the affected tunnels illegally became trapped. A search for the African miners recovered two bodies, though the exact number of people trapped in the mines remains unknown, as they were operating without permits.
Illegal or “artisanal” mining has surged in Zimbabwe over the past year as the Chinese coronavirus pandemic has plunged the poverty-stricken nation into further economic distress. Zimbabwe’s expanding business deals with Chinese companies has also resulted in situations where the Chinese companies use their influence and connections with the socialist government to acquire permits inaccessible by locals who once subsisted on the mines.