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Byo councillors moot formalising mining activities near city dams

Bulawayo councillors are mooting formalising mining activities near the city’s dams in a bid to ward off illegal miners who are reportedly vandalising infrastructure thereby threatening the city’s water supplies.

The council is on record saying that there are illegal gold panners who are mining at catchment areas for the city’s supply dams.

Efforts by the city’s security department to chase away the illegal miners have not yielded any results as the miners are said to be armed with dangerous weapons.

Discussing the matter at this month’s full council meeting, ward 22 councillor Rodney Jele said there is a need to engage people with the capacity who would do legal mining in the city’s catchment areas.

“In terms of the illegal mining in our dams, I would like to just suggest something because at the end of the day whether we want or not, we will continue chasing illegal miners, why don’t we look for people with capacity who would do legal mining and we would know who to approach when we have a problem because if we don’t do that illegal miners will continue to destroy our supply dams,” said Cllr Jele.

He said the local authority should engage well-known mining companies, “or they should look for us so that they go and do proper things and be answerable to degradation that will happen.”

Ward 12 Councillor, Alderman Lilian Mlilo said illegal miners are using heaps of soil to block water flowing inside the dams.

“If we put legal companies to mine there, I think we will be able to control our dams and for the water to properly flow,” she said.

“Let us put even two legal companies so that they can do the right thing but what is important is that we will know who to approach when there is an error, unlike the illegal miners who run away when they see us.”

However, some councillors were against the proposal with Ward 8 councillor Shadreck Sibanda calling on the government to ban all illegal mining activities near the supply dams.

“Gold is important but at the same time water for our city is more important than the gold being mined in Esigodini and other areas where the water catchment for Bulawayo are located. My proposal is more of an appeal to the Central Government to totally ban all the mining activities that are currently happening in that area,” said Cllr Sibanda.

He said even if they put legal mining companies, somehow the cyanide poisoning can always make its way into the dams.  

“My proposal and going into the future we will realise that because of global warming the weather pattern has changed, the water we used to receive 10 years ago and the water we are receiving now is no longer the same, so it is better for that little rain that we receive to get to our dams. The damage that is being done by these illegal miners is more than the gold they are getting from our dams,” said Cllr Sibanda.

Ward  21 councillor Tinevimbo Maphosa concurred saying there is a need to do away with mining activities near the city’s supply dams.

“Whether we legalize or not, that will not deter illegal mining from happening in those areas so my proposal is that let’s completely do away with mining activities near our dams so that we avoid issues of cyanide and toxic substances.”

Bulawayo Deputy Mayor and Ward 1 Councillor Mlandu Ncube added that if the local authority doesn’t take any action, residents will end up drinking poisoned water.

“If we don’t do anything, our people will end up drinking water with cyanide poisoning and we won’t have anyone to blame, so I am saying we should put strong systems in place and be able to monitor water from the dams to the residents so that it doesn’t make residents sick,” said Ncube.

“It’s either we ask for an expression of interest or we look at the applications that have been received, we have been turning them down but there is a tour that we did last week, I didn’t know that people can block a dam, Umzingwane was blocked and they are doing their illegal mining while water is no longer reaching residents, so we should manage this situation,” he said.

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