Rio Tinto, Vale condemned over resettlements in Mozambique

Global mining giants Rio Tinto (LON, ASX: RIO) and Vale (NYSE: VALE) have been accused of seriously neglecting over 1,500 Mozambicans who were moved from mining areas and resettled without proper housing or income.

According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, “many of the 1,429 households resettled to make way for Vale and Rio Tinto's international coal mining operations … have faced serious disruptions in their access to food, water, and work," since being moved between 2009 and 2011, the rights group claimed in a document published Thursday.

The report shows more than half the booming province of Tete has been zoned for mining, which has reduced the amount of farming land available for relocation.

Rio Tinto and Vale have invested as much as $10 billion in mines and projects in the northwest province, home to an estimated 23 billion tons of coal, some of the largest untapped reserves in the world.

Human Rights Watch called the Mozambican government to strengthen its regulation of mining investments, increase community participation and update current resettlement laws to bring them up to international standards.

"Mozambique's government … should review, and if necessary, halt, the process of awarding prospecting licenses and mining concessions to ensure that appropriate sites for resettlement are available," the report said.

In response to the group’s allegations, Vale told AFP it has managed resettlements "based on respect for human rights and aligned with international standards."

The Rio de Janeiro-based firm also said it had fixed water pumps and irrigation systems and repaired houses in resettlement areas, adding it would compensate the 83 families who still have not received all the farmland they were promised.

Rio Tinto, reports Reuters, it took "community engagement" very seriously and would study the report. In its Mozambique settlements, it said it had constructed brick houses and ensured they had all had water.

The report comes on the heels of several announcements by Mozambican authorities stating the country is about to start major gas explorations off its northeastern coast in Cabo Delgado province.

Image Shutterstock/ Duard van der Westhuizen