Mozambican tribal queen stands up to Rio Tinto over land

Thu Mar 7, 2013 9:20am EST
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By Agnieszka Flak and Marina Lopes

CAPANGA, Mozambique (Reuters) - For Mozambican tribal queen Zoria Macajo, the thatched-hut village of Capanga, nestled in the hills above the Zambezi river, has been her family's home for generations.

For mining giant Rio Tinto it is a headache sitting on top of one of the world's largest untapped coal reserves, standing in the way of the company's expansion.

Macajo, Capango's the 59-year-old leader is refusing to leave her home until her people are paid for their land, a contentious issue for Rio which has found it difficult to get its Mozambique business running at full speed.

"Our people have rights. The company promised it would compensate us," Macajo said, sitting on a straw mat outside her house, the only concrete dwelling in the village where goats and pigs roam freely.

"The people must receive their money," she said with several of the village men nodding in agreement.

Rio said it had agreed with some families a like-for-like compensation, promising houses and land in the new Mwaladzi resettlement area, some 40 km (25 miles) away from Capanga.

The company said it has paid some families affected by its operations, including the queen, and is negotiating separate payments with a farmers' association, which it says holds formal title over some 150 ha (370 acres) of land in the area.

But Macajo said she had not received any money and the association does not represent her or others in the community.   Continued...

A driver climbs from a haul truck at Rio Tinto's Bengalla coal mine in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney in this October 3, 2006 handout photograph. REUTERS/Rio Tinto/Handout