Mining activities threaten conservancy

An environmental catastrophe is unfolding in the Gwayi Conservancy in Matabeleland North province where Chinese mining firms have been allocated claims under unclear circumstances, The Zimbabwean has learnt.

The Presidential Herd under threat. Has the President mortgaged his elephants to Chinese miners?
The Presidential Herd under threat. Has the President mortgaged his elephants to Chinese miners?

Chinese mining firms have sprouted in the wildlife area, extracting coal and prospecting for other minerals.

The Hwange/Gwayi Conservation and Tourism Association was recently forced to call a stakeholders’ meeting to find a possible solution to the illegal Chinese mining activities, which have resulted in the massive pollution of rivers and are threatening to upset the flaura and fauna.

“The Chinese have invaded the Gwayi Conservancy in search of minerals. This area is a buffer zone for Hwange National Park and any mining activity in the area would have drastic effects not only on wildlife, but the environment as well.

“After a proper analysis, we established that there would be greater value in preserving the area as it is, rather than allocating it for coal mining activities,” Langton Masunda, the Chairperson of the association, told The Zimbabwean.

One of the Chinese companies operating in the area was recently fined $1,000 by the Environmental Management Agency for mining coal without an environmental impact assessment certificate, Masunda said.

“There is chaos in the area. The Chinese have put up structures and are pegging claims on our farms. Nobody really knows where these people are getting permission to mine in the area,” he added.

He said the area now occupied by the miners had previously served as a corridor between Hwange National Parks, land belonging to the Forestry Commission, the Gwayi Intensive Conservation Area and the Binga Conservation Area.

Removing this corridor would obstruct the free movement of animals like the Presidential Elephants.

A wildlife activist said these elephants were further threatened by a reported allocation of mining rights to miners in the expansive Dete vlei, located between the scenic Sikumi and Sable lodges.

Mining activities have not yet started in that area, where Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu’s family is reported to own land.

“This is a true disaster for the Presidential Elephants herd and for tourism,” said the activist, adding that the disturbances caused by these allocations would be worse than in Gwayi.

Attempts to establish if the government gave the Chinese mining rights in Gwayi and Dete were fruitless as Mpofu would not pick up his phone after repeated attempts, and did not respond to a message sent to him.

What do you think?

Should the Chinese be allowed to mine in conservation areas?

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