By Anna Chibamu
THE government has bowed to mounting international pressure through an immediate ban on all controversial mining activities in national parks.
The ban follows growing public outrage after it emerged the Chinese-owned Zhongxin Mining Group Tongmao in partnership with Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) were carrying out coal mining operations at the Hwange National Park.
The game park hosts one of Africa’s largest populations of elephants.
However, in a post-cabinet media briefing Tuesday, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the controversial mining licences had been withdrawn with immediate effect.
“Mining on areas held by national parks is banned with immediate effect. Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining titles held in national parks,” she said.
“It was noted that the granting of mining concessions through mining claims and on a special grant is not a licence for the resumption of mining.”
Mutsvangwa also urged all holders of mining title to obtain approval of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) from the Environment Ministry and acceptance of site plan works from the Mines Ministry.
“All those holding mining concessions will be given a grace period to be announced to obtain Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and state of works plan.
“Stiff penalties shall be aimed at all those who are not complying with environmental provisions.”
In addition, the government also banned all riverbed alluvial mining with immediate effect, except on the Save and Angwa rivers where desiltation will be allowed under very strict conditions.
More than 45 000 elephants are estimated to live in Hwange park along with more than 100 mammal and 400 bird species, including buffalos, leopards, and lions, that are already struggling for food and water in the vast savannah due to a prolonged drought.