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Govt in u-turn over Hwange coal mining concessions

Government has banned mining activities at the country’s national parks following public outrage after the granting of coal mining grants to Chinese miners at Hwange National Park.

This comes a day after the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court challenging government’s decision to grant concessions to Afrochine Energy and the Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coal Mining Group inside Hwange National Park, arguing that this would be harmful to the environment.

Mining is Zimbabwe’s largest foreign currency earner, contributing more than 50% of export earnings.

Official figures show that Hwange National Park is home to 10 per cent of Africa’s remaining wild elephants.

The tourism sector, a another key driver of the country’s economy has been one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic after global travel came to a halt.

Meanwhile, the government has announced plans to open up the skies for both domestic flights and international flights as the economy opens up.

“Mining on areas held by National Parks is banned with immediate effect. Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining title held in National Parks,” Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told a post Cabinet media briefing.

Before the urgent court application Bhejane Trust, a local conservationist raised the red flag over the commencement of mining activities at the game reserve.

“We followed up on this and discovered the Government has allocated two coal mining concessions in the middle of Sinamatella and Robins. The mining concessions are Special Grants which apparently can only be issued by the President, and both been granted to Chinese companies,” Bhejane said in a statement Tuesday.

Afrochine Energy is the local unit of Tsingshan, the global stainless steel company that has recently been allowed grants to prospect for both coal and lithium in Zimbabwe.

Tsingshan’s Afrochine already runs a ferrochrome plant at Selous.

In 2019, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) said it had entered into a new joint venture with Zhongxin Electrical Energy for coal exploration. The license, issued on November 22 in 2019, allows the firm to operate for 25 years.

According to the country’s power utility four out five of the country’s power plants are coal-fired. The southern African nation is one of Africa’s biggest coal producers and has promised to lower carbon emissions by 2030 as it embraces renewable sources of energy.

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