We agree with the story in our sister paper Zimbabwe Independent by Herbert Moyo titled: Legalising gold panning to hurt communities.
In the story it is correctly observed:
“The plight of the local communities whose livelihoods are already adversely affected by siltation and pollution of rivers caused by mining activities will worsen if government forges ahead with plans to legalise the activities of gold panners around the country.”
Of late government ministers, including Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, have been loudly calling for gold panning to be legalised. We understand the desperation of the cash-strapped government, but we cannot condone their intention to destroy community livelihoods in search of the dollar.
Panners, through their operations, are merchants of environmental destruction. Communities depend on the environments they stay in and they cherish and try to conserve all flora and fauna around them. It would be gross injustice to author laws that allow panners free reign to destroy other people’s lives in search of gold.
We all know that the search for gold is ephemeral and as soon as the panners are done, they move out to leave communities facing the brunt of contaminated and silted rivers, ugly and dangerous gaping holes in their environment and a rotten social fabric as panners usually introduce the Sodom and Gomorrah type of living in communities.
Who will monitor the panners? Definitely not the government, it might pay lip service because if it was serious it would not even think of legalising panning activities that have caused more problems than joy in many communities. Moreover it is one thing to legalise and another to monitor.
Panners use dangerous substances like mercury to purify extracted gold and the Environmental Management Agency aptly observes: “Mercury contamination is persistent in the ecosystem as the chemical is widely used by the gold panners . . . people get affected after eating fish from the contaminated rivers. The symptoms may also present as nervous breakdown and loss of hair.” So it will be like legalising the death of both the environment and the people with one stroke.
Panning should remain as illegal for the preservation of the future. The government should not love money to the extent of deliberately legalising activities that everyone knows do more harm than good.
Judging by the zeal with which the Zanu PF ministers are advocating for gold panners to be protected under the law, we now think there must be truth in rumours that these gold panners are a mere front for the big fish. Legalising gold panning is not good for the country at all.