Maputo — The authorities in the central Mozambican province of Manica claim that they have cleaned up four of the six rivers that had been polluted by illegal gold miners.
Cited in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, Estevao Rupela, spokesperson for the Manica provincial government, said the clean-up was undertaken by the environmental police unit in coordination with the provincial directorate of mineral resources.
Rupela said this work had allowed the authorities to control rivers previously devastated by artisanal miners. The environment had been damaged by the miners' use of mercury and of borax (sodium borate). The latter is not as acutely toxic as mercury.
The clean-up had managed to improve the quality of the Chimeza, Lucite, Nhancuarara and Zambuzi rivers. But there are still high levels of pollutions in the two largest rivers concerned, the Pungoe and the Revue.
“Our recommendation:, said Rupela, “is that the work begun in 2015, to halt the pollution of the rivers, should be monitored to ensure that the water for irrigation and for livestock to drink is clean”.
The Manica government had set December 2015 as the deadline for eliminating pollution from the rivers, but the miners have resisted the police operations intended to shut down illegal mining operations in the Mavonde region.
Some of the gold miners are Mozambicans, but many have crossed the border from neighbouring Zimbabwe. The illegal gold mining operations have led to frequent clashes between the police and the miners,
The government has also promoted the creation of associations of artisanal miners, granting them concessions where gold can be mining in a rational and environmentally sustainable manner.
It had been feared that the continued use of mercury in mining would make the rivers unfit for either human beings or cattle to drink. The state body that manages the river basins in central Mozambique, ARA-Centro, warned last year that there were signs of heavy metals entering the drinking water for Beira.