Mining exposes residents to poisoning



Alpha Media Group

Local News

An artisanal miner who spoke to this publication anonymously said that once they exhaust gold, they abandon their mining pits that can be up to 90 metres deep, some of which have become death wells in the hills of Penhalonga. “The pits pose dangers to others, but that is the norm here. No miners have time to rehabilitate the area,” said Moyo. Officials from the Mines ministry and companies mining in Penhalonga did not respond to questions sent to them. “This is a creation of political elites in central government,” said James Mupfumi, director of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), a research institute based in Mutare. “Mining entities involved in mineral smuggling, tax evasion and environmental crimes in the area boast that they are protected by Zanu PF, the president, his family, other government elites and securocrats.” Makoni said there is a need for the authorities to rehabilitate the area by planting trees. The gold miners also clear down trees to pave way for their operations. According to the 2002 mining regulations, no mining activity commences in the country before state-owned Environmental Management Agency (EMA) issues an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) licence, a planning tool used to assess potential environmental impacts and come up with ways to mitigate them. But for Penhalonga, activists and residents believe that the process was marred by massive corruption as some locals were paid to influence the outcome of the EIA. “What it means is that the community is going to carry the burden of diseases due to lack of a clean environment whilst a few politically connected individuals profiteer,” said Tapuwa O'bren Nhachi, an environmental expert based in Mutare. “It is not a secret that Better Brands is behind this and its owner is connected to the executive.” Mupfumi said he condemns the failure of EMA to hold perpetrators of environmental crimes accountable for pollution and rehabilitation. “It is clear that under normal circumstances, an approved EIA would not have been issued by EMA to allow hazardous mining at Redwing Mine. The decision to compromise the law and expose human lives to environmental hazards is unconstitutional,” he said. Amkela Sidange, environmental education and publicity manager at EMA said land degradation and water pollution are a cause for concern in Penhalonga. “EMA is aware of the matter, thus informing the nation through regular thematic reports on the state of the environment,” she said in an interview last year. While the activities by both illegal and artisanal gold miners remain a menace for stakeholders in Penhalonga, Mubatsa vowed to keep on piling pressure on the authorities. “I will continue raising my concern whenever we residents have meetings with the authorities,” she said.