By Takunda Maodza
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has urged security forces to immediately take action and stop all illegal mining activities in Manicaland Province.
Commissioning two Bailey bridges that were constructed by the South African National Defence Forces and the Zimbabwe National Army at Kopa, Chimanimani, recently, the Vice President said Government was concerned over rampant illegal mining in the province.
“As Government, we are concerned about the illegal mining activities being conducted in the province.
“A strong warning is being given to those operating in illegal areas as they will face the full wrath of the law. I, therefore, urge security agents to immediately take action and stop the unlawful mining endeavours forthwith,” he said.
In an interview with The Herald yesterday, Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Manicaland provincial manager Mr Kingston Chitotombe identified five illegal gold mining hot spots in the province.
“These are Mutare River from Penhalonga to Odzi, Border Timbers’ Sheba Estate, Rwenya to the border with Nyamapanda, Odzi, and Kopa in Chimanimani. As EMA, we write to the Zimbabwe Republic Police for assistance. The police then carry out operations and make arrests,” he said.
Reliable sources told The Herald that security agents in the province held a joint meeting in Mutare to strategise. Manicaland is rich in gold and diamonds.
Diamonds are mainly concentrated in Chiadzwa, but gold is almost everywhere in the province.
This has resulted in a gold rush with illegal panners besieging the province causing serious land degradation.
Effluent from the mining activities is posing danger to humans and animals.
Daring illegal panners are invading timber plantations and macadamia nut estates in search of gold.
In August, over 1 000 illegal gold panners invaded the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) Rusitu Estate in Chimanimani.
Police had to seek the intervention of the army to kick the illegal panners out of the estate after they had turned violent.
Arda Rusitu is on prime land and plans were underway to revive macadamia nut production.
Macadamia nuts have potential to earn the country millions in foreign currency through exports to Europe and Asia.
South Africa, the world’s largest producer of macadamia nuts, harvests 50 000 tonnes of nuts annually earning R3,2 billion from exports to the US, Europe and Asia.
The illegal mining activities are also a threat to tourism with panners invading the Chimanimani National Park and digging up the mountain in search of gold.
Some of the revered caves in Chimanimani mountains were desecrated by the illegal miners.
The timber industry in Manicaland province has not been spared.
Allied Timbers chief operations officer Mr Trymore Chivhinge told a meeting on the National Land Policy held in Mutare recently that the illegal activities affected their operations.
“We have more than 13 000 hectares that are occupied by settlers. We have gold panning in our plantations. We have had to rely repeatedly on law enforcement agents,” he said. The Herald