15 August 2012

Zimbabwe: Pressure Builds to Stop Mining At Mana Pools

Pressure is continuing to build to prevent planned mining activities at Mana Pools, with conservation groups warning that the potential damage there will also ruin Zimbabwe's international tourism reputation.

Prospecting and exploration licences for the area were granted last September to a mining firm called GeoAssociates, a locally owned company, to mine for heavy mineral sand deposits in Ruckomechi and Chewore rivers in the Zambezi Valley.

The Ruckomechi River lies within the Mana Pools National Park and the Chewore River forms the boundary between the Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas. Both rivers are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, an honour afforded by the UN grouping that recognises the cultural and natural significance, and exceptional beauty of the area.

According to conservation groups like the Zambezi Society, mining activities at Mana Pools will result in the destruction of the site and the removal of its prized World Heritage Site honour. Sally Wynn, the PRO for the Zambezi Society, told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that Zimbabwe's already fragile tourism reputation is also under threat.

"Mana Pools are well known in the international tourism industry and Zimbabwe is still trying to regain its reputation as a tourism destination. Next year is the UN tourism meeting (taking place in Zimbabwe) and it will be extremely embarrassing if Zimbabwe was to be shown to be desecrating one of the UN world tourism sites," Wynn said.

She added: "We have an enormous amount of support and people are saying that this is something that should not be allowed. They are saying that we have these heritage areas that are a heritage for our future and we should hang onto them if we possibly can."

Wynn meanwhile explained that the Zambezi Society is, "trying to create a large fuss in the beginning because we feel there shouldn't even be a question of mining in this area. And even though this is just a case of prospecting, we shouldn't even be entertaining the idea."

She explained that the potential threats to the area include significant environmental damage and even a possible increase of poaching, if the project is allowed to develop into a full scale mining operation.

"Once you find anything positive it will lead to a massive operation. Our feeling is let's try and nip it in the bud before it even starts," Wynn said.

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