Zimbabwe on Tuesday said mining on areas held by national parks is banned with immediate effect. This comes as two Chinese companies were reportedly exploring for coal in the protected Hwange National Park, which hosts one of Africa’s largest populations of elephants, raising concerns from wildlife activists.
However, Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association filed an urgent chamber application together with Fedelis Chima, a Hwange local resident, to stop these developments which pose an acute risk of irreversible ecological degradation. “Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining titles held in National Parks,” Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told the media.
The issue has raised emotions in Zimbabwe and wildlife activists have vowed to block any mining in the national parks to protect wildlife. Several coal mines operated by Chinese have opened in Hwange around the Hwange Colliery Company concession over the years. In order to restore sanity in the mining sector, the government with immediate effect banned all riverbed alluvial and riverbed mining on rivers, except on the Save and Angwa Rivers where desiltation will be allowed under very strict conditions. Mutsvangwa said all those holding mining concessions will be given a grace period to be announced to obtain Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and State of Works Plan acceptance by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
“It was noted that the granting of a Mining Concessions through mining claims and on special grant is not a license for resumption of mining. All holders of mining titles are required to obtain approval of EIA and acceptance of Site Plan Works by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. This position will be strictly reinforced by the two Ministries responsible for Mines and Environment. “Those who fail to regularize EIA and Site Plan Works will be deemed to be operating illegally and will be subject to stiff penalties which are being reviewed,” she said.
She said the whole objective is to have all mining operations conducted in a manner which does not harm the environment. “Stiff penalties shall be aimed at all those who are not complying with environmental provisions,” Mutsvangwa added.