MASERU — A dispute is raging over a quarry mining project in Mokema where villagers are complaining that instead seeing of the benefits promised before the project began, all they get “are clouds of dusty dirt” which pose a health risk to their community.
The company TK. Mokema Crushers was meant to mine and crush rocks to make aggregate for concrete.
The project, which begun operating last July, is headed by a contractor of Ghanaian origin.
According to the initial proposal, the quarry mining and stone crushing project was also meant to improve the livelihoods of residents of the underdeveloped area.
It was supposed to build roads, improve the clinic, upgrade sports fields, build an irrigation dam and, most of all create employment opportunities for scores of youth of the area.
However since exaction work began, there have been complaints from the villagers about clouds of dusty dirt “which practically envelopes houses covering them like a shroud”.
There are some who have been forced to vacate their homes because they have been rendered inhabitable owing to the noise and dust.
A couple has been forced to relocate to an old house inward of the village away from the plant because they say they could not stand the dust any longer.
‘Manthabiseng Zulu, a villager who lives about 800 metres eastward of the plant, says her fields are now lying fallow because she and many others like her who have fields adjacent to or beyond the plant cannot pass by the mining area.
“We cannot access our fields because we are barred from going anywhere near the plant which is actually in the way to our fields”, Zulu said.
She said even when they try not to trespass the mining area on their way to their fields, the security officials will not let them.
“Those security officers seem to have been strongly instructed about the plant and will not allow anyone anywhere near it. We have tried to pass by the plant to our fields but they threatened us badly telling us not to dare go any close”, she added.
According to this mother of three, the project has even divided the village.
“Those who have their family members working there speak highly of it while some us are not so happy about it”, Zulu said.
“When the project was introduced to us, it sounded so lucrative we felt that through it our lives were going to be better”, said Setabele Masilo acting headman of Rampoetsi village.
Masilo said the project was supposed to build roads, improve the clinic, upgrade sports fields, build a dam for irrigation and, most of, all create employment opportunities for scores of youth in the area.
He said the project sounded too good for the community to reject.
Rampoetsi is a smaller village in the greater Mokema region, and it is the village in which the operations were to take place.
Masilo says when he heard about the benefits which the project would bring for his village and region as a whole, he had reported to his immediate superior area chief of Mokema Teketsi Maama.
Then a public gathering had been called for all residents of the region to discuss the finer details of the project.
However, after tabling the proposal to the village, the contractor then began operations even before all the necessary paperwork was signed accordingly.
“After the public gathering, we were surprised to learn that the company was already doing work in the region without any permission to do so”, Masilo said.
The Commissioner of Mines Mpooa Mpooa had not responded to questions seeking to verify the villagers account by the time of going to print.
When the operations ensued, there were complaints of noise and dirt which polluted the air making the place inhabitable.
The owners of farming land adjacent to and beyond the plant area also complained of the inability to access their property for their purposes due to mining and crushing operations.
When a Sunday Express team tried to engage one Kwashi Drake Ahadji, said to be the mine owner, he was evasive and could only say, “I have nothing to say”.
Instead he told the news team to revisit the site in January next year when he said he would be in a position to speak about the dispute.