Maputo — The Mozambican Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Leticia Klemens, has banned all quarrying and sandpit operations along the Umbeluzi valley, in Maputo province, reports the independent television station, STV.
Klemens visited sandpits and quarries along the river banks on Friday and Saturday and was angered by what she found. One quarry operator, in Namaacha district, had even diverted the river from its normal course, in order to serve his own commercial interests.
Klemens warned that, from now on, inspectors will guarantee that operators do not damage the environment. "The inspection will be very tough", she said. "There was a time when we went soft in order to give an opportunity to Mozambican businesses. But that phase is now over. Now Mozambicans must prove that they are good business people and that they have the potential to operate in this area".
The increase in civil construction projects in Maputo, has led to a growing demand for sand and stone for building purposes. To fulfill this demand quarry and sandpit operators have been putting great pressure on the environment in the Umbeluzi Valley.
Klemens gave her warning at a meeting with mining associations and operators after her tour of the area. She urged business to think not merely of their own interests but of those of future generations.
She said those who affected by the ban would be given new areas for the operations, where they would not affect river beds or banks.
Klemens told reporters that some of the problems identified at the meeting arose from lack of communication. She said this constraint will be overcome, and the authorities and the mining operators would remain in regular contact.
During the meeting operators complained they had suffered extortion from some officials. Klemens urged them to denounce any attempts at corruption so that the offenders can be identified and held responsible for their acts.
They also complained that the "surface tax" all extractive companies should pay is "very high". Klemens said the government is reviewing this tax, and will soon announce its decision.