BY VENERANDA LANGA
AN Environmental Management Agency (EMA) official has accused artisanal miners of not adhering to mining regulations and interfering with water channels, resulting in avoidable disasters.
Addressing a Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) discussion on the possible causes of the recent Battlefields mine disaster, an EMA official, Fanuel Mangisi said artisanal miners used different underground tunnels that were only known to them and were difficult to trace.
“The lessons learnt from the Battlefields disaster is that we need to formalise artisanal mining, and we also need to encourage miners to respect the recommendations and regulations made by different institutions on issues of safe mining,” Mangisi said.
“There are many cases we deal with as EMA of, for example, our railway lines that have been threatened by artisanal miners and at Globe and Phoenix Primary School in Kwekwe, where there is mining taking place underground, and there is a sewer system in Kwekwe that is always vandalised by some illegal miners. They want to use the sewer water to process the ore and they say that it is good for processing ore.”
Mangisi said whenever the sewer is vandalised, waste spews all over and after authorities repair it, the illegal miners always vandalise it again.
“Learners at Globe and Phoenix School have said while learning they hear sounds coming from underground, and the walls of the school are cracking.
“The illegal miners detonate some dynamite close to infrastructure. We need to mine in an environmentally friendly manner, which is acceptable. If we do not protect our environment it endangers our communities and livestock can even fall into open pits,” he said.
Asked why EMA has not taken action on the Kwekwe artisanal miners, who have been vandalising infrastructure for several years, Mangisi said the panners operated at night, moved in large numbers and are armed and dangerous.
“They mine underground using numerous secret entrances. At Hwandara in Shurugwi, they operate at night and move in large numbers. In other instances, they are becoming very violent. This needs the intervention of all stakeholders, not EMA alone in terms of enforcement. This needs the intervention of EMA, the police, civic society and politicians as well,” he said.
Mangisi said whenever EMA tried to hold educational meetings with the illegal miners they refused to attend. “No one knows what is underground and it is not stable out there. When political will is there I think we can do something and deal with them,” he said.