CHIEF Mabhikwa of Lupane has called for research on the effects of Chinese coal mining operations in Matabeleland North province to determine whether or not it is a threat to wildlife and the environment.
Chief Mabhikwa yesterday said there were fears Chinese coal mining operations posed a threat to wildlife and the environment in the province, but this had mostly been based on rumours and not conclusive research.
About 20 different mining companies have been given concessions to prospect for and mine coal in Matabeleland North.
Chief Mabhikwa said conclusive research on the mining operations was, therefore, needed to allay the fears or take appropriate measures to protect the environment.
“We need a conclusive investigation on the Chinese coal mining operations to determine whether there are any effects to the environment or not. We need jobs to be created at the same time there is a need to protect the environment and wildlife,” he said.
“Therefore, a proper research once done will assist on the best way forward. This is because most of the fears we have heard have been mostly based on rumours.”
There have been widespread concerns from tourism players and environmentalists that the new coal mining operations by a number of Chinese companies in the province posed a huge environmental threat.
Tourism players in the wildlife-rich conservancy in the Gwayi area argue that the coal mining operations marked the beginning of the end of wildlife tourism, which is a major foreign currency earner.
Langton Masunda, chairperson of the Hwange, Gwayi, Dete Tourism Association, has said the noisy mining operations were scaring wild animals resulting in them leaving en masse.
One such company that has faced criticism is the China Africa Sunlight Energy, a coal mining joint venture between the Defence ministry’s Oldstone Investments and Shandon Sunlight Energy Investments occupying 100 000 hectares of land in the Gwayi Conservancy.
Chinese mining companies have denied charges that their operations were a threat to the environment and wildlife.