By Estacio Valoi In the midst of war, the province of Cabo Delgado, continues to be a destination for many people searching for minerals buried
By Estacio Valoi
In the midst of war, the province of Cabo Delgado, continues to be a destination for many people searching for minerals buried deep beneath the soil of this part of the country.
The province is home to an estimated 15 mineral concessions. These concessions, however, do not benefit the locals. The proceeds earned from these concessions have only served to elevate ministers, generals, directors and others connected to the Mozambican political nomenclature – who exchange land for cash.
According to the geological charts on a scale of 1:250000, the soil contains several minerals among others: Gold, Grenades, Tourmalines, Beryl, Amazonite, Spinel, Graphite, Vanadium, Limestone, Magnetite, Titanium, Mica, Marble, Heavy Sands, Ruby, Sapphire, Quartz, Aquamarine.
With the boom of gas, the province attempted to hide a booming ruby industry which produces millions of dollars in profit – all pocketed by politicians, since they were discovered.
In 2009 farmers in Namanhumbir district of Montepuez discovered the rubies, which the Geological Institute of America considered “the most important discovery of rubies” of the 21st century.
The precious stones of an exceptionally clear colour, attracted renowned multinational companies on a quest to own their own share of the shiny gems. The province’s desire to protect its 40 percent interest in the mining of rubies that sparked violence, death, persecution, rape, prostitution, increased drug smuggling, and caused land loss. Without benefit for the local population, who have been tagged ‘illegal’ in their own land.
General Raimundo Domingos Pachnuapa and Gemfields MRM are the leading masters in the concession granted to Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM). Locals say they were terrorised into leaving their land as armed robberies and violence increased. Speculators crowded the area; and an increasing number of small-scale miners were beaten and shot. Locals claim that some miners were buried alive.
“We were captured by the internal company security known as ‘Nacatana’. In the [area of the] concession I was with another person from Lichinga, my friend who lost his life. We were detained overnight. They forced us to undress, then they beat us. At the time we were staying in Namujo, closer to Muaja, we were taken to cover the shafts with our bare hands, our clothes were kept in their car. At that moment there was a white man, this Indian here in the photo, but I don’t remember his name. That day we were so bad that I couldn’t even remember his name. My other friend who worked with me ended up losing his life but not due to mining. As for the video in question. It was inside the mine, for those coming from Namujo, entering the Anemia area of 4 meters shafts as it is called, red soil zone,” a local resident told us.
There are other reports similar to this one of artisanal miners being beaten, mutilated or buried alive.
At the time, Pompílio Xavier Wazamguia, Montepuez District Attorney, attributed much of the crime to rising tensions between the armed security forces in charge of protecting ruby deposits and unlicensed miners looking for precious stones. “Our forces are the ones that use weapons, not the miners,” the attorney general said in an interview. “Some members of the security forces were tried and convicted.”
Wazamguia had prosecuted more than 10 murder cases against police officers between January 2013 and January 2015. In addition to 35 to 40 cases involving armed robberies allegedly committed by police officers who stole from residents and miners. In another case, two officers were convicted of mutilation by cutting off the arms of a local resident.
April 21, 2016 the Mozambican Attorney General (PGR) Beatriz Buchili, visited the Montepuez area to investigate the violence allegations. The results of the Attorney General’s investigation were not made public. However, the mining company ended up on trial in London, which led to its decision to compensate the hundreds of displaced people.
Then came the ‘raids’ organized by the government and sponsored by the mining company – logistics which not only wiped out thousands of artisanal miners mostly from Tanzania, but also the main buyers, the Thais. The cleaning raids were not to accommodate local communities, however.
Rubies and other minerals ‘are all ours’ and was necessary to remove everything and everyone
The Mining company and the government share a common interest in minimising the mining and smuggling of unlicensed gemstones from the Montepuez area. For the government, it means protecting tax revenues and foreign currency earnings; for companies, it is about protecting their investments. The ‘raids’ were meant to make room for multinationals and an elite group of Mozambican politicians.
In April 2017 more than 4,000 artisanal miners were expelled from the Namanhumbir concession, including locals.
The ‘raids’ were held by a joint force integrated by the Rapid Intervention Forces (FIR), protection police, private security including environmental officers, Nagy. Buses with raid forces were deployed from Pemba to Namanhumbir, where they stayed 15 days or more, paid for by the MRM mining company.
The raids saw many homes looted, goods, cars, motorcycles, and money stolen. Several foreign nationals including a Nigerian and Tanzanian national were forcibly removed and transported in buses and dropped off at the border. People from the communities of Namanhumbir were dropped off in Ancuabe district, in Mesa, others from Nampula, dropped off at the Tanzania-Mozambique border and were told ‘now you can go back to your houses’. Forced to walk more than 100 kilometers, without anything, they started stealing from farmers in order to get food.
But the concession business as usual was yet to reach its pinnacle. The multinational daughters of Fabergé took over the land. Mining company Fura acquired all the concessions as listed below, becoming the largest concessionaire, with its daughter Gemfields-MRM as second to Fabergé-Gemfields, Fura Gems Inc. Mustang (known as New Energy since mid 2018) Regious Resources, Gem Rocks, SRL Mining Limites.
Mozambican army generals and ministers are the main beneficiaries. Once again Gemfields and Mwitiri were locked into a ‘joint venture’ for the gold, creating the gold mining company – Nairoto Resort.
Criminals dodged the Courts
The masterminds of the crimes, those who gave orders to the security officials were the executive directors of Gemfields-MRM, some names mentioned above according to data published in previous investigations, with refuge in MUSTANG, New Energy, ‘the Indians who gave orders’ to the well-known ‘Nacatanas.’
In reply to a letter to Fura the company said, `Mr Shetty joined Fura Gems Inc in January 2017 as Executive President. He was chief operating officer and board member of Gemfields Plc.’ And ‘the only relationship between the two companies has to do with a publicly announced acquisition agreement between Fura and New Energy in July 2018, in which Fura accepted acquisition of certain ruby assets. New Energy rubies in Mozambique (‘the transaction’)”.
It was all to accommodate the multinationals and their own people .
Parents, children, concubines, cousins, brothers-in-law, friends of the regime are part of the range of those benefiting from the business according to the mining registration of Cabo Delgado. People’s land was grabbed from the people by the the Mozambican political nomenclature who were looking for investors to mine the gemstones in exchange for millions of dollars.
“We were even a little happy when they expelled those people, but here too, before the expulsion, we had life. Money, we went digging, we sold, we opened tents, we sold food, cakes, everything. Now, today we have nothing,” said the locals, who thought the removal of illegal miners would help them mine freely without being assaulted or harassed, but this has not been the case.
Those who discovered the mineral
The first was Selemane Assane in 2009 who had suffered after the huge discovery of the rose deposit expropriated by General Raimundo Pachinuapa, member of the political commission of the FRELIMO party and former governor of the province from Cabo Delgado, along with Asghar Fakhraleali. They became a thorn to the government who took their land and labelled them “villains and thieves.”
In June 2011 their land was acquired by Gemfields, an English multinational, which through an agreement with Mwiriti of Raimundo Domingos Pachinuapa and its partners Asgar, of Iranian nationality, formed a joint venture – Montepuez Ruby Mining . Thus, Gemfields acquired the controlling interest of 75 percent of the new company (MRM) as attested by Boletim da República III series – Number 38 of September 23, 2011. MRM holds Mining Concession 4703C.
Selemane Assane was rewarded with a few arrests and labelled ‘ruby thief and enemy’. Assane, the ‘founder’ of MRM, was imprisoned in Montepuez jail for 35 days and was released on March 3, 2020 on a 40,000 meticais bond.
Compensated for crimes – human rights violated
As for the extortion of compensation recipients, it was nothing new. Officials from Mozambiques’ secret services and the Ancuabe Prosecutor’s Office had been harassing community members who had taken the Montepuez Rubi Mining (MRM) company to the London court. Beneficiaries were already being paid and the secret services were extorting money from them.
In Ancuabe, the operations of the State Information and Security Services (SISE) against the compensated bear the face of Mr. Horácio, “They say it is ‘Alshabab’ money. We explain that it’s compensation money. We are not from Alshabab,” said a beneficiary visibly upset with the situation.
They received amounts of money ranging from 500 thousand to 7 million meticais. Government and SERNIC officials claim the money was from the so-called ‘Alshabab” even though this case was widely reported by the media on national and international radio, television and newspaper outlets. District Attorneys from Ancuabe and Montepuez and some from Pemba insist that they don’t know about the court ordered compensation. “We never heard about this case, we don’t know. These people received money from ‘Alshabab.’”
The official raided the homes of those who’d already been compensated, confiscating their goods such as TV’s, motorbikes. “We want a list with names of everyone who received money and how much”. Their goal was to raid the homes of those who received more than 100,000 meticais in compensation.
Namanhumbir – Montepuez has two community associations, one is October 4th and the other one is called Armando Guebuza with around 350 members each. Like the first association the (other one October 4) was also granted was a 250 hectare mining area, “delimited, designated” and which since last January until March, when this research was published, they were waiting for their new partner, “Gems Rock”, to start their activities.
They have been making camps in Nacoja and now they are missing here in Namahumbir. While each of the associations holds 30% (both 60%) of the company’s shares, Gems Rock holds 40% – refer members of the associations.
Without the knowledge of the community, the alleged contract with the associations had no effect and was considered null and void. The concessions agreements made by multinationals outside the Mozambican territory, today there only has Fura, Gemfields – MRM (Fabergé) as owners
According to the associations the size of the mining areas for communities have been reduced from 500 hectares to 250 hectares each.
“I think the government had manipulated it but now our partner has already bought one of the Gemfields and Mustang areas and I think the areas are already incorporated. In terms of violence, it is still continuing in the mining areas, which has always been an area where conflicts do not stop and there is still violence, bullets, beaten people, this is not lacking, because during the week illegal miners were chased inside the Montepuez Rubi area, the sound of bullets were heard. We no longer have people being shot ending up at the hospital.”
Business Is Booming
Today, in the middle of 2021 with the Covid-19 pandemic the ruby trade remains largely concentrated in the Montepuez district. Those who are now and who have been always buying include Senegalese, Somalis, and, in smaller numbers, Tanzanians.
The Guineans give money to the Mozambican miners that way they can have the stone to sell to the Thais.
The Senegalese bosses give money to Mozambicans, food for 200-500 meticais, flour, pickax. The Mozambicans are the ones who go underground to dig for the rubies.
Today the Senegalese no longer pay the numbers, but rather, they pay the mine’s controllers (private security, police, UIR). However, it is no longer easy to enter the mine because many security guards no longer accept it.
The miners enter at their own risk. “You also have bosses who charge you for delivering that money, the food is consumed there and you go to work and then sell the ruby, a gram at 100, 200 thousand meticais under the justification of Covid-19 that drove away the customer, the price has dropped a lot for the artisanal miners since 2009 to 2013 and 2015.”
“At the time you used to sell a gram at 400,000 meticais but now it is down due to Covid-19, they say there is no money. People continue to dig, but not very much as the MRM is tightening control with its private, civil and government security forces.“ artisanal miners said.
Local chiefs, such as the district administrator commander, FIR, including passersby continue to organise groups of illegal miners to go digging. They let the miners dig and when they find the rubies, they sell it to Montepuez and share the profits.
“In 2018 the local government said they would “create conditions for us to be able to explore for gold” but nothing was done. We are indeed surviving, practically sitting with nothing to do, since when some people were detained there, there were five members of the association where some served six months in jail, this in 2018 from the beginning to the month of September, it is forbidden to explore in that area, only the furtive ones are going to do illegal mining there,” according to Jacinto Faladi, former leader of the Muaja association which was licensed to explore gold mining in the area within the Quirimbas national reserve.
One of the areas with the highest concentration of mineral concessions is located exactly in the North of Cabo Delgado Province, a war-torn zone from which around 800,000 people were forced to withdraw due to terrorist attacks. Insurgents tore families apart, burning their homes, traumatizing children and killing people.
In March, the United Nations said an estimated 228,000 people became food insecure, but that number is expected to increase to 363,000 during the lean season starting in October.
The worst affected are children. Recent data indicates that 75,000 children under the age of five in Mozambique suffer from acute malnutrition, more than 2,800 deaths according to the ACLED conflict registration project and 732,000.
Then there is Total, a French transnational company that runs a multibillion-dollar liquefied gas project in northern Mozambique. The local population had hope the project would bring fortunes to the local population, instead it contributed to massive internal displacement, impoverished parts of Cabo significantly slender region and generating local unrest which has driven substantial numbers of people to join or support Islamic insurgents.
In some areas, according to satellite research, it is possible to verify that some activities are being carried out. See graphic:
The marks of the Rubies are one example among many
Luís Lazaro Rame is one of many victims of crime. According to him, it was exactly at the time when these soldiers were working with the civil forces known as ‘Nacatana’, “We were captured and there was one from Lichinga. My friend lost his life. We were detained overnight there. They forced us to undress, beat us. At the time we were staying in Namujo, for us closer to Muaja, we were taken to cover the holes with our hands, our clothes were in their car. At that moment there was a white man, this Indian here in the photo, but I don’t remember his name. That day he was so bad that I couldn’t even remember his name. The other friend of mine who worked with me ended up losing his life but not due to mining. As for the video in question. It was inside the mine for those coming from Namujo, entering the Anemia 4 meters zone, red earth zone, it was a night in which we were hampered and treated in that incredible way,” he recalled
“After what happened all these years ago I don’t have the courage to go back to that mine unless the government or the mining company itself can give us access to do our mining, because what I felt, I feel to this day in my spine, I can’t nor do farm work because it hurts after all these years since 2013, the health issue that I continue to face makes me do odd jobs in another place far from the mine to be able to support my family.
They beat us, forced us to lie down on our stomachs, beat them with a stick from thigh to hip, waist, whole thigh, in that flesh. So you can get up, then walk from there to the house, not even thinking, much less putting on slippers, shoes, not even thinking. From 2013 until today, I can practically do nothing, on the farm I can barely weed, or do work that requires more strength, because if not everything breaks down, the pain returns again with a lot of strength. What happened to me!”
I went to the hospital, they prescribed me medication. I ended up losing revenue. I lost the recipes and other documents taken by Cyclone Katrine when it passed and ended up moving here where I am now living (Namujo). I was born in 1980, I’m married to a woman from Nampula who is still there, she didn’t come here, I support the family with odd jobs as little as I can or with little part of the machamba, I do something. I am from Muaja but I have been here in Nanhupo for a long time, before the establishment of the mining companies,” he explained.
Since December 2020 it is prohibited for miners to dig for minerals. Those found mining illegally face up to one year imprisonment. One of the people who were arrested, beaten with me, died,” he said.
“Of these two, one was from Niassa and the other from Nampula. We were four people, one who died was from here, another friend of mine among the four, also lost his life four years ago, his name was António Ntepe who ended up leaving his family and a son. It was natural from here in Nanhupo, his whole family. The other one from Niassa, I don’t remember his name but he’s alive, from time to time I’ve come across him, he walks in the mines, he concluded