ENVIRONMENT and Natural Resources minister Francis Nhema has said the government would not authorise mining activities in Gwayi Conservancy in Matabeleland North until the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has approved the projects.
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But Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu is on record saying mining will always take precedence over other economic activities.
In an interview with NewsDay on Saturday, Nhema said his ministry was still awaiting the results of the study on the impact of mining activities at the conservancy.
“We are waiting for the Environmental Management Authority to complete the environmental impact study and if it says it is alright to carry out mining, then we will give the go ahead,” he said.
“There are considerations to make when you talk of development. For instance, do you build a road at a place or something else? We guard our area jealously, but if the results of the study show that mining can be done with no harm to the environment, then that will go ahead.”
The Hwange/Gwayi Tourism Association has been campaigning against the granting of mining rights in the Gwayi Conservancy area which is located on the periphery of Hwange National Park, the country’s flagship game reserve. Hwange National Park is home to an estimated 45 000 elephants and various wildlife species.
In May, a Chinese firm was reportedly fined $1 000 by EMA for illegally mining coal in the Gwayi Valley area.
The Hwange/Gwayi Tourism Association claimed its own investigations had shown it would be better to “maintain the area as is” than to give companies rights to mine coal.
Environmentalists have also expressed fears that mining activities being carried out along the catchment of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, which is part of the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, could have long-term effects on the water body.