ENVIRONMENT, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere has ordered the cessation of alluvial mining operations by two Chinese companies in Matabeleland South province following massive land degradation along major rivers in Insiza and Umzingwane districts.
Tanzanite Mining (Pvt) Ltd and Yuan Hang Corporation operated illegally in Insiza and Umzingwane contravening the country’s environmental laws by causing severe environmental impact.
Speaking during a media tour of rehabilitated alluvial mining sites, Environmental Management Agency (EMA) provincial manager Sithembisiwe Ndlovu said alluvial mining, which entails digging along riverbeds and riverbanks, had affected livelihoods.
“This type of mining has resulted in the siltation of rivers downstream of the mining operations. Water contamination by waste oils from mining equipment was also observed at these mines,” said Ndlovu. Both mines have halted operations pending the fulfilment of environmental requirements while rehabilitation initiatives have begun in an effort to reduce siltation of downstream water bodies.
Tanzanite Mining operated at Killarner Mine in Phikelela village in Insiza South along the Insiza River from May this year while Yuan Hang Corporation operated at Special Grant 5780 Mine at Hlangano Ranch in Mbalabala along the Umzingwane River from August.
Both companies operated without environmental accreditation.
Johnson Langa, chairperson of the Phikelela Village Development Committee, lamented the loss of vegetation as mining equipment stripped the area of all vegetation.
“It will take us ages to replace the trees that have been destroyed here. The gold that was being extracted is gone, but people still suffer from hunger,” said Langa.
Insiza assistant district administrator Mandlamakhulu Moyo thanked EMA for chucking out the Chinese.
“We thank you for chasing the Chinese away as they were causing a lot of damage to the environment and slurry from the mine also trapped villagers’ cattle,” said Moyo.
A lot of Chinese investors have flooded Zimbabwe since the country adopted a Look East policy following strained relations with Western countries.
Although the Chinese have abandoned mining operations on both sites, illegal gold panners have invaded the Umzingwane River causing more degradation. The police have warned illegal panners that they would be arrested.
“Gold panning has always been our concern hence we have special units that will respond positively to illegal gold panning activities,” said Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson Inspector Philisani Ndebele.
EMA’s provincial environmental planning and monitoring officer Amkela Sidange said although they appreciated that most people in the province survived on mining, it was equally important to preserve the environment.