Afrochine accused of commencing operations in Hwange without EIA

By Tinashe Mungazi

Hwange residents and safari operators have come out guns blazing accusing Afrochine of double standards after the Chinese company began exploring the Deka Safari area while still conducting its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

According to sources privy to the development, the company has reportedly commenced operations riding on an expired EIA which had been used when they were granted a concession in the Hwange National Park.

The government subsequently reversed the decision following pressure from residents, safari operators, environment activists and conservationists.

“The company has since begun exploration of coal in the Deka Safari area with major equipment having moved on site. The company is riding on the EIA which they did at the time they got to the previous concession which of course expired and meant that the company was supposed to conduct a new one targeting the latest place as the impacts may differ from area to area. Afrochine did not do that but instead went on to conduct exploration and the same time doing an EIA. I would say they are probably in a hurry to start mining given that they recently fired up their coking plant in Lukosi which in turn is supposed to feed the smelters in Selous,” said the source.

Greater Whange Residents Trust coordinator, Fidelis Chima said they were shocked to learn that the company was already on the ground conducting exploration works.

“Greater Whange Residents Trust is surprised that Afrochine has started exploration work before the EIA process has been completed. They sent questionnaires for the mining project and before being issued with the EIA certificate they are already on the site,” said Chima.

Association for Tourism Hwange (ATH) Chairperson, Elisabeth Pasalk said any mining activities would disturb the ecosystem.

“We do hereby object to the establishment of any form of mining activities within the proposed area or in any area close to, within the buffer zone of or connected to Zimbabwe National Parks and safari areas. The area proposed represents crucial wildlife habitat. Mining activities within the area will disturb and displace wildlife, modify animal behaviour and pose a threat to the Zimbabwean citizens living in Hwange town and in the communal lands nearby since the wildlife in the area will have no choice but to escape to new spaces.

“Mining activities generate vibrational energy that propagates many kilometres along the surface while also penetrating at depths of several kilometres. If you think of the surface of the earth as a trampoline, high-energy ripples are propagating outward from the source along the surface. The vibrations caused by drilling and the noise generated by trucks, provoke the elephants and other wildlife in the area to fear danger and escape to areas where will come into contact with humans and cause the loss of life,” she said.

In a letter of objection seen by CITE to SustiGlobal Consulting and copied President Mnangagwa and Mines minister, Winstone Chitando, Pasalk who operates a safari queried why the government was insisting on coal extraction when the district was one of the best solar radiation zones with the potential to be harnessed into clean energy.

“The over utilization of fossil fuels also contributes to global warming. There is no need to mine coal when there are cleaner renewable sources of energy. Zimbabwe should lead renewable energy projects, which would put us in good stead in terms of reputation as a destination that cares about conservation of the environment, as opposed to relying on open cast coal mining.

“The Hwange/Victoria Falls area is classed as one of the world’s best solar irradiation areas in the world with potential for harnessing solar power in an innovative, environmentally conscious manner. Why then is the government of Zimbabwe continuing to engage in coal mining activities? From a business and economic perspective, the issuance of Special Grant No.8477 indicates a blatant disregard of the investment that safari operators and activity providers have made in the region and tells us that our efforts are in vain and that the livelihoods of those whose careers rely on tourism are of no significance.”

It is understood that on Monday officials from the President’s Office and Cabinet (OPC), Zimparks, government departments and security sector visited concessions given to Afrochine and Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coking Company (ZZCC) to ascertain the obtaining situation.

Meanwhile, residents have petitioned Afrochine consultant, SustiGlobal Consultancy seeking to stop it from conducting mining activities in the area.

Efforts to get a comment from the chief managing consultant, Oliver Mutasa were futile as he was unreachable.

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