Development or destruction? Impacts of mining on the environment and rural livelihoods at Connemara Mine, Zimbabwe

Martin Magidi and Promise Machingo Hlungwani co-authored this paper in South African Geographical Journal.


This study interrogates the impacts of mining at Connemara Gold Mine on the environment and rural livelihoods for surrounding communities the mine. While we acknowledge that mining is a very lucrative business and one of the major drivers of the Zimbabwean economy, we argue that most of the benefits of mining tend to be enjoyed elsewhere and not by host communities. We roped in the Treadmill of Production and the Resource Curse theories to demonstrate the interplay between capitalism, the environment and local ordinary people’s livelihoods around Connemara mine. Data were collected through interviews with local community residents, leaders and stakeholder organizations with interests in mining who were selected through purposive and snowballing techniques. We collected data over a period of 13 weeks, interviewing twenty-five respondents in the process and undertaking a series of transect walks across the mined site and its adjacent surroundings. We discovered that mining caused extensive environmental destruction, creating artificial hills and open pits as well as promoting massive soil erosion, contaminating water and land with dangerous chemicals making them unusable for productive purposes. As a result, we conclude that mining at the site did not generate wealth for the local populace but for the mine owners and the state while impoverishing the host communities, destroying their livelihoods in doing so. We conclude by arguing that mining at Connemara is a perfect example of how the Treadmill of Production works and an evident testimony of the Resource Curse.