BCC suspends mining along Upper Ncema Dam

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Bulawayo City Council has suspended mining activities along Upper Ncema Dam amid fears cyanide used by illegal gold panners would flow into the dam, a situation which could pose a serious health hazard to residents.

Upper Ncema Dam is one of Bulawayo’s major water supply dams and as at February, it was almost 70% full.

According to the latest council report, precautionary measures have to be taken to avoid the cyanide seeping into the water.

Part of the report reads: “Mining at Upper Ncema Dam by a legal miner has been suspended temporarily until precautionary measures have been taken to stop the likelihood of cyanide flowing into the dam.”

Councillors agreed the mining activities could be dangerous due to the possibility of cyanide flowing into the dam.

Contributing to debate over the matter, councillor Gideon Mangena said: “The mine should be completely closed since cyanide was likely to be disposed into the water and this was likely to endanger the people who consumed the water.”

However, council’s director of housing and community services, Isaiah Magagula, said the local authority was not in charge of mining hence the local authority could not stop the activities.

“The challenge we have is that mining activities are taking place on council land, but the mining activities are authorised and controlled by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development,” he said.

He said the council would soon take up the matter with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.

Exposure to high levels of cyanide for a short time harms the brain and heart and can even cause death.

Workers who inhaled low levels of hydrogen cyanide over a long period of time had breathing difficulties, chest pain, vomiting, blood changes, headaches and enlargement of the thyroid gland.

Upper Ncema Dam was built in 1974, has a capacity of 45 million cubic meters and a catchment area of about 643km.