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Zimbabwe bans coal mining in Hwange and other game parks

Zimbabwe’s government on Tuesday banned all mining in national parks, one day after environmental rights lawyers went to court to bar a Chinese firm from exploring for coal in the country’s biggest game reserve.

Authorities in Zimbabwe had previously granted Chinese-owned Tongmao Coal Company a licence to explore for coal in Hwange National Park, home to around 45,000 elephants and thousands of other species including the black rhinoceros.

The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) filed an application to the High Court on Monday, claiming that allowing mining in a “protected national park is a breach of the constitutional duty to prevent ecological degradation and promote conservation”.

The government back-tracked on Tuesday and banned all mining in national parks with “immediate effect”, according to a post-meeting briefing note.

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“Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining title(s) held in national parks.”

ZELA had warned that Hwange — a popular tourist magnet — would soon “become a site for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys” if coal exploration went ahead.

“Concomitantly, there is acute risk of irreversible ecological degradation including unmitigated loss of animal and vegetative species, reduction of animal habitats of many rare species including black rhino, pangolin, elephant and wild dogs,” they added.

The lawyers also feared the prospecting would ruin safari tourism, a key source of income for locals. AFP