By Vumani Mthiyane
WARD 22 Gwanda Rural District Councillor, Marry Mpofu has raised a red flag over the continued environmental degradation along Bina road in Matekenya area by artisanal miners amid reports that humanitarian aid agencies have shunned the route.
Reacting to an Infrastructure Development sub-committee report during a recent Gwanda District Development Committee meeting, Clr Mpofu expressed concern saying some transporters were now shunning the route due to the level of road damage by the artisanal miners known in the local parlance as Otsheketsha.
“Bina road at Matekenya area has been destroyed by Otsheketsha such that food aid transporters are now shunning the route saying the road is no longer vehicle friendly and not worth using considering what they get as payment.
“I have tried in vain to invite members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to intervene,” complained Clr. Mpofu.
Artisanal miners have become a constant menace around the country, causing serious environmental damage as well as engaging in deadly violence over mining claims.
Speaking in the same meeting a representative from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) said they have tried to engage the miners to rehabilitate the pits where they operate from.
“We conduct some awareness campaigns with these illegal gold miners, encouraging them to fill their pits and plant trees where damage would have been caused,” she said.
The local authority`s chief executive officer, Ronnie Sibanda said they will engage the police to ensure those who break environmental laws are brought to book.
“Now that a complaint has been raised, as the council we will have a dialogue with the Propol (ZRP Officer Commanding) to have such perpetrators arrested,” he said.
Another participant who could not be named for ethical reasons said the problem is that the government gave miners ungovernable powers.
“The problem is that the Mining Act supersedes all Acts thereby making it difficult to control miners,” she submitted.
Gold mining has been the worst enemy of the environment for a long time in Zimbabwe and now it has been worsened by persistent droughts that forced a lot of people to go into panning as a source of employment (Geology Survey 2000).
The panning activities are mainly concentrated in rivers, disused mines and dams thereby threatening water availability for domestic use, livestock and irrigation purposes.
Siltation is the biggest problem and open cast mines are also a big threat to animals and people with some miners losing their lives due to unsafe mining practices.