HARARE – Ministers caved in to pressure on Tuesday and banned all mining inside national parks after two Chinese mining companies got special grants to prospect for coal inside Hwange National Park.
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A cabinet meeting in Harare also agreed to ban all riverbed and alluvial mining on rivers, except on the Save and Angwa rivers “where desiltation will be allowed under very strict conditions.”
“Mining on areas held by National Parks is banned with immediate effect,” announced information minister Monica Mutsvangwa.
“Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining title held in National Parks.”
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association had filed an urgent application at the Harare High Court arguing that any type of mining inside the 14,651 square-kilometer nature reserve “poses an acute risk of irreversible ecological degradation.”
Zhongxin Coal Mining Group and Afrochine Smelting had received permission from the government to begin environmental impact assessments for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys at two proposed sites inside the park, which is home to 10 percent of Africa’s remaining wild elephants.
If that had led to a new mine, conservationists warned it would have shrunk and disturbed the habitat of many rare species including black rhino, pangolin and painted dogs, and devastated safari tourism, which is a vital source of income for local people.
Speaking before Tuesday’s announcement, Trevor Lane of the Bhejane Trust in Hwange said: “This is one of the greatest game parks in the world and the mines would be in one of the most pristine areas of the park. The last black rhino population in Hwange National Park lives there, so do 10,000 elephants and 3,000 buffalo.
“If it goes ahead it will be an end to the park. It would kill the tourist industry which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Meanwhile, countless other Chinese companies have been engaged in riverbed and alluvial mining across Zimbabwe, evicting locals and closing down their livelihood-sustaining agricultural activities near the rivers.
Villagers are up in arms in Insiza district where Tanzanite Mining has been operating at Killarner Mine in Phikelela village along the Insiza river from May 2013, while Yuan Hang Corporation has had a ‘Special Grant’ for a mine at Hlangano Ranch in Mbalabala along the Umzingwane River from August 2013.
The Chinese companies have reportedly pegged claims from Insiza Mayfair along the river to West Nicholson and along Umzingwane river from Inyankuni Dam to West Nicholson.-ZIMLIVE