Ema, Mines ministry clash

AFIERCE battle is brewing between the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) and the Mines ministry over unhealthy, illegal and land degradation in Mutoko’s Mudzi district.

The environmental agency’s executive, Astas Mabwe, accused the ministry of Mines of allowing illegal artisanal and small-scale gold miners to destroy the environment.

“What we are seeing here is that most of your mines are not up to standard and most of them are hazardous.
“Yes, we acknowledge the aspect of illegal panning ... but they are panning using dangerous chemicals to both humans and animals,” he said.

Mabwe noted that some of the artisanal miners were mixing residual ore such as mercury and cyanide, which are unhealthy to the community and the environment, hence the need for caution when handling such chemicals.

Economic hardships are forcing most people in Mudzi District to survive on mining in this hot and dry area with an average annual rainfall that has hardly gone beyond 600mm for the past 36 years.

Headman Sekai Kafurira, who owns a gold mine at his homestead, said small-scale miners were given the greenlight by Mines minister Walter Chidakwa to continue with their operations and contribute to the country’s fledging gold production.

“The minister gave us permission to mine without paper work for the moment while we are registering our mines.
He further said, “the police should not come and arrest us for illegal mining but they still come and disturb our work,” Kafurira said.

Information gathered by this publication shows that over 1 000  cattle have died in the area after falling into the huge pits left by artisanal miners, while villagers are believed to be suffering from various illnesses related to pollution and use of dangerous chemicals.

The gullies created by panning are creating a safety hazard in the local area, especially Makaha the most affected by the activities.

Here, small-scale registered miners have set up equipment to mine gold at the heart of the township.
Gold buyers, especially foreigners from China and Nigeria, travel from Harare to buy the precious metal.
Environmental degradation is so widespread that in cases of heavy rain, many houses stand the risk of collapse and there is a likelihood of serious flooding.

Climate change experts in the area bemoaned the pollution in the rivers and the possible eventuality of the rivers drying up due to siltation.

Ema provincial officials, however, noted that artisanal miners should practice safe mining to protect their lives, environment and animals in the surrounding area.

Chidakwa could not be reached for comment by the time of going to print. —Bianca Rugeje

Post a comment