Dorcas Mhungu Post Correspondent
AN estimated 500 illegal gold miners who had descended on the Mutare River section near Hartzell High School were forced out by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA)with the assistance of other security agencies on Monday.
The gold panners have again left a trail of destruction that has caused extensive damage to the area EMA spokesperson, Alice Chivese confirmed the removal of the illegal miners. When The Manica Post visited the area on Tuesday after the operation, a handful of miners were loitering around the site seemingly assessing the situation to continue mining.
The country is grappling with massive land degradation that has affected productive agricultural land, silted dams and rivers, a situation that has serious consequences on provision of water for domestic and agricultural purposes. The illegal mining activities have destroyed productive land leaving galleys and deep dangerous pits.
“The damage was mainly concentrated on banks of the Mutare River and approximately there are 200 pits some pits as deep as 40m. Mining activities along Mutare River has resulted in visible land degradation,” Chivese said explaining the extent of the damage.
She also said there has been biodiversity loss as a result of the uprooting of trees and there is a possibility that the river water system has been negatively affected.
“There could have been possible use of chemicals like mercury and that can affect the water quality, human health and marine life,” Chivese said further explaining the health risks posed by illegal gold miners.
Chivese also said such activities affect the clarity of the water and “turbidity of river water is affected negatively due to suspended solids affecting water users down stream. Farmers in the area are complaining about the siltation which has caused the reduction in river capacity and high turbidity which has caused blockage of irrigation pumps and also increase the cost of irrigation equipment due to high cost of maintenance,” she said.
Chivese is urging aspiring miners to first get mining licences from Ministry of Mines followed by registration with EMA.
“Currently the Agency is developing guidelines for use by small scale/ artisanal miners which promote sustainable utilisation of the environment through sustainable mining,” Chivese said.
She said it was difficult to give an estimate of the damage cost adding that the cost would include rehabilitation of the landscape which would require using bulldozers or excavators to shape the area and close the pits, introduce topsoil, planting new vegetation, servicing damaged water pumps and irrigation equipment. teaching and learning…and examination results, but also to produce proper windows of hope for the nation.