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Mining Companies Complicit In Environmental Degradation

by Bustop TV News

By Thobekile Khumalo

Mining companies are still failing to fulfill contractual obligations including the rehabilitation of  degraded ecosystems after decommissioning mines.

Zimbabwe has been plagued with mine disasters over the past years, often resulting in death of miners and even villagers living in surrounding areas.

Most of these mine accidents occur at illegally run, disused or abandoned mines which are not rehabilitated putting the lives of people living in mining towns at risk.

Last year an 8 year old Alisha Muzwiti from Makwiwa Village in Hwange district died after suffering severe burns on her lower body, after she fell fell into a coal ash disposal site. This is one of the many unfortunate incidents that happen in mining sites left unrehabilitated and at the mercy of fugitive illegal panners that perpetuate environment degradation and children who usually place anywhere.

According to a survey done by Environmental Management Agency, large scale and mechanical alluvial mining in Zimbabwe has contributed to an estimated 421.84 hectares of ravine ecosystem due to heavy machinery used in mining

This probed the government to propose environmental rehabilitation levy targeting the mining sector because rehabilitating land is an expensive exercise that can at times cost over 10 percent of mining costs.

Centre For Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) Executive Director, Farai Maguwu said that several mines prematurely close luring illegal panners.

“Several mines have been prematurely closed whilst there is still a resource underground. These become a death trap as they attract artisanal miners or ownership is claimed by someone with political connections but without mining expertise. Some of these are now charging artisanal miners for access whilst no environmental regulations are followed.

“To solve this problem, companies must pay significant mine rehabilitation fees right from the moment they start mining operations,” he said.

He added that mining companies are unwilling to rehabilitate mines as they derive no financial benefit from it.

“To deal with the challenge of unrehabilitated mines government must first ensure that the resource is exhausted and issue a certificate for mine closure. The environmental fees paid by mines will then be used to close and rehabilitate the mine because it is nearly impossible to ask a company to rehabilitate the mine and leave it in a usable state as mines complain of running at a loss prior to closure.”

Disused mines in Zimbabwe are now occupied by unregistered miners or entities and have become death traps as these are knocking down safety pillars resulting in mine collapses. It is no coincidence that Zimbabwe is experiencing many mine accidents, largely due to unsafe practices.

Maguwu said that the absence of visits by EMA contribute largely to these accidents and degradation of the ecosystem.

“Absence of mining engineers, and no visits by EMA officials and Ministry of Mines, due to illegality of these operations, is contributing to the high number of accicents and further degradation of land,” he said.

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