BULAWAYO — The Conservancy and Tourism Association of Matabeleland North is up in arms against government over the granting of prospecting licenses to four coal mining companies in an area falling under the Zambezi Trans-Frontier conservancy park.The park is a joint venture between Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botsw-ana and Namibia.
The coal prospecting grants issued by Mines and Mining Development Minister, Obert Mpofu, also lie close to the construction site of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, and environmentalists have warned that water pollution would increase as waste from the mines is likely to flow into the reservoir.
The Environmental Management Agency has also warned of environmental dangers should full-scale mining take place: The emission of poisonous gases — carbon chloride, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and methane gas — would contaminate the dam.
The Hwange, Gwayi and Dete Cons-ervancy and Tourism Association chairperson, Langton Masunda, this week said business would suffer as a result of government’s move to award the mining licenses without consultation with the association.
Said Masunda: “The clearing of the bush, pollution and noise produced by the heavy mining equipment will affect wildlife and this will result in low revenues earned for the country because the Hwange, Gwayi and Dete Conservancy area is the second largest in terms of revenue earned per annum after Victoria Falls.”
Wildlife in the area has already begun migrating into neighbouring Botswana as a result of the increased mining activity.
Mpofu declined to comment on the issue, saying he was in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Although the four mines are yet to fully conduct an Environmental Impact Asses-sment (EIA), they have already gone ahead with full-scale mining activities, according to Masunda.
“It is our belief that they cannot start mining unless they produce an EIA certificate and all stakeholders, local community and tourism businesspeople will have to be part of it.
“That has not happened for now and we are surprised to see some of these mines operating only with the blessing of the Mines Ministry”, said Masunda.
Earlier this year, 20 coal mining companies were given concessions to prospect and mine for coal in Matabeleland North. The Hwange region contains the country’s largest coal deposits, with estimated coal reserves lasting 1 000 years of mining.
It is also the location of the country’s largest national park and wildlife reserve.
Source: Commotion Over Issuance Of Mining Licenses In Sanctuary (14/11/11)