Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Eleven mining firms extracting gold along the Mazowe River in Mashonaland Central face a ban after it emerged that they are using chemicals with potential toxic effects and have been doing so without an environmental impact assessment certificate, posing serious health hazards.
It also emerged that their mining activities are not consistent with environmental regulations. The certificate is issued by the Environmental Management Agency.
This came out during a tour conducted by Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Mashonaland Central, Advocate Martin Dinha, local Members of Parliament and officials from EMA and other senior Government officials.
During a briefing to Minister Kasukuwere, Advocate Dinha, officials from EMA led by director general, Mrs Mutsa Chasi, local MP Cde Remigio Matangira and Zanu-PF provincial chairperson Cde Dickson Mafios complained about an apparent police inaction against the mining firms whom they accused of violating both health and environmental legal statute.
Mrs Chasi said the mining firms, most of which were Chinese-owned, were doing alluvial mining along Mazowe River banks after they were issued with special mining grants by the Mines and Mining Development Ministry and were using chemicals that had an adverse effect on communities.
She said the firms started mining without an Environment Impact Assessment Certificate as required by the law. Minister Kasukuwere said violation of the law was unacceptable notwithstanding the nationalities of those involved.
“That is unacceptable. This nation can not be destroyed under our watch. It would be wrong to handover this country to the next generation when it no longer has rivers and their tributaries. It does not matter where one comes from,” he said during the briefing.
In interview soon after the tour near Matepatepa, Minister Kasukuwere said he would discuss with his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that river bank mining is banned. “What I can tell you clearly is that they cannot mine in rivers. These are areas where human settlement survives on.
Farmers, animals and what we are seeing here where cyanide, mercury is being used and deposited into the water is unacceptable,” said Minister Kasukuwere.
“We are seeing our water bodies and rivers being destroyed in broad daylight. If an investor wants to mine, we have better places and not to go into rivers that feed on our urban centres.”
Minister Dinha said Government should make a policy directive stopping issuance of special mining grants on river banks as a matter of urgency.
“My urgent appeal is that there should be no special grants in all rivers. We have hills, vleis, mountains. They can mine in all these areas,” he said.
It also emerged that the firms would block the water course so as to secure crossing lines of either sides, or divert water flow thereby affecting down stream users.
It was noted that special grants were also being issued to tributaries of the river. Mrs Chasi said no rehabilitation work was being done when the firms complete extraction on a given area.
Officials from EMA complained about an apparent inaction by law enforcement agencies. Mrs Chasi gave an example that occurred last week where they arrested a company official found practising downstream mining but was released on the basis that he was not the owner of the mining firm.
She said there was a need to harmonise all laws that dealt with environment, water and mining to ensure adequate consultations among Government ministries and departments before special grants are issued.