THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has raised the red flag over illegal gold panning activities close to railways tracks, a situation which could result in the rail collapsing under the weight of trains due to the weakened ground.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
NRZ spokesperson Nyasha Maravanyika said lately, there had been a lot of illegal gold mining a few metres from railway tracks.
“Digging pits close to railway tracks poses a risk to the travelling public and there is a risk of rail collapsing under the weight of trains due to the weakened ground or surface,” he said.
Maravanyika also said NRZ was now being forced to use scarce foreign currency to repair tracks and equipment damaged by artisanal miners.
“This is money that could be better used in developing the rail network instead of repairing damage deliberately caused by a few people,” he said.
Illegal gold mining in railway reserve land is prevalent at Tatagura in Mazowe, Bindura town, Jumbo Siding, Shurugwi, Shamva, Ngezi River, Redfield, Kwekwe, Esigodini and in Chiwundura.
“The railway reserve land is a strip 45 metres wide on either side of the track along main lines. The public must respect this strip of land and stop any farming and mining activities along the railway reserve as it is a violation of the Railways Act,” Maravanyika said.
The Railways Act (Chapter 13.09) Clause 38 paragraph 4, section C states that “any person who digs, excavates, drills tunnels under or otherwise tampers with the ground within 45m on either side of the middle of a railway track to the actual or potential detriment of the safety of railway traffic: shall be guilty of an offence and be liable to imprisonment for a period of not less than five years”.
NRZ said it had launched a massive campaign to motivate members of the public in fighting gold panning activities in railway reserve land by reporting such activities to the authorities.
The NRZ will be using schools in various communities to raise awareness on illegal mining in railway reserve land.
Officials from the NRZ will move in schools close to railway lines around the country to address pupils and also urge them to report to their parents and elders in cases where they see people digging near railway lines.