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Companies Investing in Muzarabani-Mbire Should Think Beyond Oil and Gas Extraction



Companies Investing in Muzarabani-Mbire Should Think Beyond Oil and Gas Extraction

Tapuwa Obren Nhachi

While reports indicate that companies have initiated a rush for land in Mbire in anticipation of the economic activities expected to be brought by oil and gas extraction in the area, Natural Resource Governance expert Tapuwa Nhachi believes that the companies must plan for long-term sustainability beyond the extraction phase.

Speaking to Mining Zimbabwe, Nhachi said investing in land in an area where the economic feasibility of oil and gas extraction is yet to be determined poses risks for individuals and companies from other communities. The uncertainty surrounding the project’s future, especially amid a green revolution and growing environmental concerns, raises questions about the sustainability of such investments.

“If a town is established as a result of oil and gas exploration, it is crucial to plan for long-term sustainability beyond the extraction phase. To ensure continuity and avoid the pitfalls experienced by towns like Mashava and Mhangura after resource depletion, the following measures should be considered:

Diversification of the Economy: Encourage economic diversification by investing in industries beyond oil and gas to create a resilient local economy that can thrive even after resource extraction ceases.

Infrastructure Development: Key infrastructure development should not only focus on mining-related structures but also on developing sustainable infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, roads, and utilities to support the community’s long-term needs beyond the lifespan of the oil and gas project.

Environmental Conservation: Implement strict environmental regulations to mitigate the impact of oil and gas extraction on the environment and promote sustainable practices to protect natural resources for future generations.

All this should be done through encompassing community engagement by involving local communities in decision-making processes, prioritizing local employment opportunities, and investing in skills development to ensure that residents benefit from the project and are equipped for post-extraction livelihoods,” Nhachi said.

Mbire Rural District Council chief executive officer, Cladius Majaya, stated that the local authority would not deviate from its original development project, emphasizing that the oil/gas project must fit into the existing plan.

He acknowledged the discovery of gas in the province had put the area in the limelight and in a perfect position to receive increased investment.

Majaya was responding to questions about whether the local authority would consider development around the project site, which would also require extensive relocation of locals already settled in the vicinity of that project.

The district, Majaya said, already had approved layout plans for their development, while one for Angwa, a few kilometres from Mbire along the way to Kanyemba Border Post, was awaiting approval by the Government. The Government is also working on the master plan for the planned border town of Kanyemba, which lies on the border with Zambia and Mozambique.

As part of the ambitious development plans for the province, the local construction firm Exodus & Company was contracted to develop a tarmac highway from Mahuwe, with more than 15 kilometres already completed. A further 24 kilometres are scheduled to be developed this year, which will take the full stretch of the highway a few kilometres from Mushumbi and 277 km from Harare.

According to Majaya, Mbire plans to turn Kanyemba, which lies on the precinct of the mighty Zambezi River, into the ‘second Victoria Falls’, amid high demand for land, the bulk of which has sold out on the Zambezi Riverfront, while land for holiday homes and residential stands has also sold like hotcakes. This comes as the Government, Majaya pointed out, has since directed all rural local authorities to come up with layout plans for their locations.

Majaya said the Mbire local authority started responding to strong interest for land in the district sometime back when exploration by Mobil confirmed the existence of gas deposits, which at the time did not have a huge market.

“In as much as we were marketing the district on that basis, no one was interested because there was no, sort of, national pronouncement. So, we have started responding both to the gas issue and even to the Kanyemba issue. “We have a layout plan that is at some stage, that we have sent to the Government for approval, which we expect to absorb the pressure of demand for land in the district that will arise due to Kanyemba and the gas project.

“We are also doing the same for Mushumbi; we are also doing the same for Mahuwe.

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“What we wanted to avoid was a situation where we develop new towns anchored, say, on the gas project (or any other in-demand mineral),” he said.

He said history showed towns developed on the strength of a particular resource quickly degenerated into ghost towns while workers lost jobs once the resources got exhausted or prices plunged.

“What we need to do is that the existing areas that are already there before the coming of the gas project, are the ones we will simply expand. Examples of towns that turned into pale shadows of their former glory due to either metal prices going down or the resource mining out include Mhangura (gold), Penhalonga (gold), Mashava (asbestos), Redliff (iron ore), Trojan (nickel), Patchway (gold), Chakari (gold) and Alaska (copper) and Mutorashanga (chrome), among others.

“There now is that (surge in demand for land); already we have a meeting to respond to the calls. We have already received inquiries and visits from developers; we interviewed others recently.

“We have set up a committee where we interview those that are interested every Wednesday; others want (to establish infrastructure to tap into the gas supply.

“What the province has advised is that we should not do piecemeal development. We need to do it wholesomely to say instead of saying one wants 60 hectares and we give them, another wants 30 hectares and we give them; the other wants 10 hectares and we give them; they should be feeding into our plans.

“We have sent layout plans for approval. If one wants to develop 60 stands, we are simply going to say this is the area you can develop; if someone wants to do a shopping mall, we will say, ‘This is the area for a shopping mall’.

“There is nothing we are doing specifically in response to the gas project. If Invictus itself wants lands, we will give them in Mahuwe, we will give them in Mushumbi,” Majaya said.

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