By Chris Mahove
THE government will descend heavily on mining firms and artisanal miners who continue to defy environmental laws through wanton destruction of the environment, Mines and Mining Development Minister, Winston Chitando has said.
He was speaking at a Mining and Agriculture breakfast interface at the Harare Agricultural Show on Thursday.
Minister Chitando said those who ignored calls to abide by the country’s environmental laws risked prosecution, adding that all economic activities in the country, including mining, should be done within the confines of the law to preserve the environment.
“The laws are very clear in terms of what needs to be done and all economic activities have to be undertaken respecting the laws of the country.
“The Ministry will be coming very hard on those who do not exercise caution in their activities,” he said.
Chitando noted that government was in the process of crafting amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act to further reinforce its commitment towards proper upkeep of the environment.
Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Munesu Munodawafa, said the amendments had already gone through both parliament and senate, adding the Bill also sought ways to address degradation.
“One key component of the Bill is that it seeks to set up a fund to rehabilitate the environment, which will be a departure from the past where we thought that mines would do that,” he said.
According to several researches conducted, a number of players in the country’s mining sector were engaged in activities which were harmful to the environment amid concerns authorities were failing to enforce relevant laws.
It has been noted that the absence of proper implementation of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) was the largest driver of environmental abuse by mining companies.
The advent of illegal miners, now referred to as artisanal miners, compounded the situation as they work without the proper knowledge, skills and equipment and has greatly contributed to land degradation.
Recently, the Minister of State for Midlands, Owen Ncube ordered that all mining companies operating along the Shurugwi-Zvishavane highway ceased operations after it was discovered that their operations were damaging the environment and the road infrastructure.