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Villagers in Mberengwa have claimed that Kuvimba Mining House took their lithium ore from Sandawana Mine and did not pay for it.
In late 2022, at least 5 000 artisanal miners invaded the former emerald mine after the discovery of lithium.
The government then moved in to control lithium mining activities at Sandawana after it emerged that some foreigners were buying the ore from locals for US$200 per tonne and exporting it.
The Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) was given exclusive rights to supervise mining activities while selling the ore to Kuvimba.
In November, Kuvimba and ZMF officials committed to assisting the artisanal miners with mining equipment and also buying the lithium at improved prices.
However, villagers who spoke to the Independent alleged that Kuvimba has reneged on its promise to villagers.
Said the villagers, “We were selling lithium to buyers including Chinese who were paying us as much as US$200 [per tonne] but when Kuvimba moved in they are paying as little as US$50 per tonne.
“We were expecting Kuvimba, as a government entity, to try and match these prices but we were fooled when the officials intervened.”
The Independent reported sources as saying Kuvimba took away lithium ore that had been mined by villagers in the Upper and Lower Varichem and Gwamakudo areas.
Said the source, “Kuvimba sent a huge fleet of tipper trucks onto the mountains and loaded all the lithium ore that we had extracted and disappeared into the night.
“We lost compressors and their accessories. They even took our shovels and wheelbarrows.
“At least they could have paid us the little they owed us and returned our equipment.
“People are afraid to go to Zvishavane to claim their equipment for fear of arrest and we know it is stored with the police.”
The villagers also claimed that ZMF was not helping them as promised by the leadership, saying the federation was demanding a US$5 registration fee from each villager.
ZMF provincial chairman Makumba Nyenje told the Independent that 1 200 miners were registered in Mberengwa.
Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Polite Kambamura said he was not aware of villagers losing their lithium ore without being paid for it by Kuvimba.