By Alois Vinga
THE Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has implored the government to hold the forces behind the Redwing Mine accident to account.
The accident which occurred in early January 2024 will go down the country’s memory lane as one of the most successful rescue operations after 15 miners were retrieved alive after three days.
However, the environmental lobby group has urged the government not to leave any stone unturned and to hold to account those behind the risky mining operations.
“Once investigations have been concluded and parties found to be in violation of these critical provisions, all parties involved must account for their gross negligence.
“If the ASM who were trapped were illegally mining in the said mine, they should be held to account for their illegal activities. This is meant to enhance accountability to minimise such avoidable accidents, especially bearing in mind that a proper tribute agreement would have laid down obligations of parties involved in the venture,” said ZELA.
The environmental group also advocated for the formalisation of the ASM based on the belief that ASM is a front doorway to empowering resource-rich but poor communities to benefit directly from mineral resources.
“Formalisation will make it easier for the government to offer capacity building to the miners smartly and systematically. Other African countries like Kenya and Lesotho have formalised the ASM sector through legislative interventions and Zimbabwe can follow suit,” the grouping said.
The lobby group said ongoing legal reforms through the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill offer a timely opportunity for ASM to be recognised as a key economic driver and supported to ensure that it is done in a way that promotes safety, health and environmental protection to avoid future disasters.
It said such efforts are important considering that the ASM sector is indispensable to Zimbabwe’s socio-economic growth trajectory and is a major livelihood source with 500 000 people directly working as ASM in Zimbabwe and more than one million benefiting indirectly.
“Formalisation would make it possible for the government to track the mine disaster hotspots and develop early warning systems accessible to all miners as a warning mechanism for ASM miners on possible accident risks including seasonal accidents from rainfall.
“In addition, we call upon the government through Fidelity Printers to apply responsible sourcing practices by actively and consciously buying gold from operations certified for ethical, environmental and labour rights observing producers,” added ZELA.