Zimbabwe: Govt Defends Hwange Mining, Backtracks On Blunder

(File photo).
9 September 2020

The government yesterday announced that it is banning the mining of coal within the Hwange National Park after pressure from environmentalists and citizens calling for the two Chinese companies which had started coal mining exploration in the park.

The mining exploration by the Chinese companies raised concerns for environmental degradation as there seem to have lapses in the granting of the mining concessions by the authorities.

Mines and Minerals Minister Winstone Chitando yesterday said everything was done above board, however, the contracted companies had not obtained the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and State of Works Plan acceptance by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development

"In terms of the Mines Minerals Act, there are areas which are referred to as reserved areas and these reservations can be for a variety of reasons

"Areas held by the National Parks are reserved areas, areas held by the Forestry Commission are reserved areas and there are other areas which in terms of the provisions of the Mines Minerals Act, can and are classified as reserved areas," Chitando said during a post-cabinet meeting.

In terms of the provisions of that same Act, it provides for a mechanism through which mining can take place in the reserved areas.

"So the mechanism is that when someone wants to undertake mining in the reserved areas, you seek permission from the jurisdiction under which the reserved areas have been placed under and when that is done and you get the permission that you can mine in the defined area, then the Ministry of Mines proceeds to issue what is known as the Special Grant which is a mining title in the reserved areas.

On why these particular concessions were granted in the first place, Chitando alleged that they were granted: "Because at the time of application the jurisdiction overseeing that particular reserved area gave a go-ahead for the granting of mining rights.

"In particular, the mining concession in the Hwange area being area was granted in 2015 to the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) who have held that mining concession since then."

Chitando alleged that although they haven't done much work on the concession , they proceeded to get a partner to undertake mining in the particular area and they then partnered with the company which is registered in the country and they have followed the proper protocol in terms of its establishment as an investor in the country

"So that partnership was concluded between the ZMDC and the company. The procedure is when you have been granted the Special Grant before you start mining or before you start any active exploration program in terms of the provisions of the law, you then apply... In this particular case, the application was done to the Environmental Management Authority (EM)for the EIA before undertaking mining in the area.

"It is at this stage that EIA, has been granted and through the particular review of the mining concession, cabinet then decided that all the special grants which are held in national parks be cancelled," Chitando retorted.

Conservationists were angry at the government's decision to alloactee two coal mining concessions in the middle of Hwange National Park and the surrounding Deka Safari Area.

Bhejane Trust, a non-profit conservation organization that works with Zimbabwe's National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, broke the news last week saying: "Our Rhino Monitoring team recently found some Chinese (people) in Hwange Park - we managed to ascertain they were drilling core samples for coal. Parks arrested them and turned them over to the Police. However, they soon reappeared with a permit giving them the right to carry on in the Park with exploratory drilling. They did this without any consultation with the Area Manager and seem to feel they have a right to go wherever they like to"

Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association earlier in the week filed an urgent High Court application barring the continued mining in the park.

Zimbabweans alike, had taken to social media to vent their anger at the deciosn using the #SaveHwangeNationalPark , a move which bore results.

Bhejane TrustHwange National ParkMines and Minerals Minister Winstone ChitandoZimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC)

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