Another resource curse? Black Granite from Mutoko, Zimbabwe

Granite rock has been mined by foreign companies, a curse more than a blessing. Resistance led by Dolorosa Mubvumbi of Budja Environmental Conservation Trust.

Mined in certain areas for over 24 years, the black granite of Mutoko has not yielded meaningful benefits for the community.  If one visits Mutoko area on any typical day, it is impossible to fail to take note of the many trucks transporting black granite to Harare and beyond. Mutoko is in Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe. [1] Quarrying companies are extracting the ‘black granite’ in Mutoko for export. The black granite has now been classified as a mineral by the Zimbabwe government. This is mainly due to its semi-precious nature and high value it fetches on the market. Mutoko is home to quarries of granite rock, a highly valued stone that is treasured for its shininess as well as its easy crafting into artifacts such as tombstones, multi-story building surfacing materials and other important uses. The rock has been heavily mined in the country, especially by foreign nationals, chief among them the Chinese and Croats who own granite quarries in the area. The 13 companies have employed about 3000 workers collectively and majority of the workers are unskilled and lowly paid. The extraction activities have seen the disappearance of landmark hills due to granite mining. The quarrying work itself is very noisy and disruptive to the serene atmosphere which this community was accustomed to. The working conditions are also deplorable as many workers have suffered injuries whilst others have died on duty. The community is angry that despite being the victims of environmental hazards created by the companies, nothing tangible is ploughed back to the community by the companies. There is therefore a growing sense of activism among the Mutoko residents who are demanding economic and environmental justice. The Environmental Management Agency has also weighed in by accusing the mining companies of deforestation, noise pollution, destruction of farm land through rock waste depositing in the fields, cracks in houses through rock blasting effects, and destruction of mountains. Dolorosa Mubvumbi was a native of Mutoko village in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland East Province. [2] Trucks loaded with the precious granite and leave the poor rural village of Mutoko with little benefit. Moreover the mining leaves a trail of destruction to the environment. Worse still, houses and schools are being damaged as a result of the impact of dynamite blasting that takes place daily. Having been affected by all this injustice Dolorosa decided to set up a trust, Budya Environment Conservation Trust (BECT), in 2009. BECT has been instrumental in rebuilding the environment after the damage caused by granite mining, as well as empowering the Mutoko community to fight for a just share of the profits from granite mining. “I started this in 2009 after realizing that the environment is being ravaged by the mining that is taking place at an alarming rate here in Mutoko.Granite is part of our heritage and it is very disturbing that the mining companies are only concerned with the mining whilst the environment is being damaged. Wild animals are also being chased away from Mutoko and our land is being mortgaged to foreigners who do not even care about the people,” she said.But all that was not an “easy walk in the park” since Mutoko is a heavily politicized area with the ruling ZANU PF members threatening her and her colleagues to desist from interfering with granite mining. “There are some ZANU PF members who are benefiting a lot from the mining of the granite rock and I have been threatened several times. They are saying I am an agent of the Imperialists but that is not the case. My duty is to safeguard the environment and to advocate for the total benefit of the people of Mutoko from granite mining,” she said. Dolorosa Mubvumbi died in March, 2015. [2]
Basic Data
NameAnother resource curse? Black Granite from Mutoko, Zimbabwe
ProvinceMashonaland East
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesBlack Granite
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn 2009 Mutoko District produced 121 000 metric tonnes of black granite which was estimated to be worth 12.1 million dollars. The Mutoko Rural District Council only received $18 000.
Project Area (in hectares)70000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population100000
Start Date1985
Company Names or State EnterprisesNatural Stone Export Company from Italy
Natural Stone Quarries from Italy
Manwick Granites from Italy
Natural Stone Matabu from Italy
Relevant government actorsMines Ministry, Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBudja Environmental Conservation Trust, Mutoko Youth Development Association
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesValue addition of black granite in Mutoko to ensure that the local community benefits in terms of employment and also in terms of development

Give authority to the Mutoko Rural District
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.There is still a lot of activism needed before the Mutoko black granite issue is resolved. So far government has only played lip service without stopping the mining of the black ground. Need for tight legislation that deals with investor identification, contracts etc
Sources and Materials

Environmental Management Act

Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe

Environmental Management Act

Mines and Minerals Act


Economic Approach, Tanyaradzwa Chigonda. Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa (Volume 12, No.3, 2010) (attached)

An Assessment Of The Benefits And Costs Of Black Granite Quarrying In Mutoko District, Zimbabwe: A Socio-Cultural, Biophysical And


[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

29 July 2011, Zim losing out on granite royalties, by Sifelani Tsiko (excellent report on the economics of granite exports - a extractive industry leaving no local benefit)
[click to view]

The curse of Mutoko’s black granite
[click to view]

The Standard, 24/12 2016, Granite mining has turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing for people in Mutoko in Mashonaland East province. It has brought about untold environmental degradation and social ills to the villagers who now find no benefit from the blasting of their mountains. BY TAWANDA TADERERA
[click to view]

Media Links

[2]Dolorosa Mubvumbi (Mashonaland East Province. Deceased
[click to view]

The granite quarries of Zimbabwe, AFP
[click to view]

Mutoko Black Granite Curse (ZELA and Action Aid)
[click to view]

[1] The forgotten “ Black Diamond” of Mutoko
[click to view]

By Terry Tinotenda Mutsvanga. The "Curse" of Black Granite in Mutoko is a documentary that exposes the negative impact of extraction mining in Zimbabwe with special emphasis on Mutoko.
[click to view]

Other Documents

Filmmaker Terry Mutsvanga produced a documentary titled The curse of black granite in Mutoko.
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorFarai Maguwu
Last update22/01/2017