- September 5, 2020
- Posted in LOCAL
The Special Grants given to two Chinese mining firms Afrochine and Zhongxin Coal Mining Group in Hwange National Park for coal exploration and mining have been labelled as an evil genius move that increases the chances of Ivory “mining” risk.
The news about the Special Grants that were issued to the two mining firms has come at a time Zimbabwe is losing its elephants under unclear circumstances in Hwange National Park. The national park is home to 10 percent of Africa’s last wild elephants.
Last week Friday about 11 elephants were found dead in Pandamasue forest located between Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls and investigations are currently underway to determine the mysterious cause of death.
China is the biggest ivory consumer in the world and reports from different countries in Africa and Asian have implicated the Chinese in most wildlife poaching activities, a fact which has made many Zimbabweans be pessimistic about the Chinese owning a mining concession in the wildlife zone.
Is the SG necessary?
Like many African countries, Zimbabwe is under serious electricity shortages, desperation for power supply has therefore led the country to push for more coal production.
According to reports, all the planned new coal projects combined could add up to 3000MW of power by 2023 a move which will make the country an exporter. According to experts, the country needs a maximum of 1700 MW the issuing of the Special Grants by the president is therefore justified.
However, according to a local energy expert who spoke to Mining Zimbabwe, the granting of the SGs to the two firms was not necessary as this would trigger poaching in the area. He also added saying that all the coal projects that are currently in the country besides the two are enough to feed the national grid if run properly.
“The government is fully geared to say goodbye to the Hwange National Park. The Chinese will be mining elephant tusks and rhino horns. Already, with Hwange Coal Mine in Matebeleland North and Chisambiji Coal Mine in Chiredzi, Zimbabwe has surplus coal for its needs.” He said.
Small scale miners also expressed concern to the developments saying that the government is prioritizing Chinese miners over locals who contribute significantly to the country’s foreign currency earnings.
According to miners, it was not necessary for the government to award Afrochine a Special Grant in Hwange National park because they have proven to be notorious in land degradation in the Chegutu/Selous area where they have chrome mining ventures.
The miners said that the firm has done absolutely nothing years in operation to the Chegutu community where its chrome ventures are located.
“Certificates for Small scale miners are not being issued but Chinese special grants are issued in record time. Chinese miners in Zimbabwe have no justice to the environment. One of the SG holder Afrochine has done absolutely nothing to the Chegutu community for years, then grant them game park expecting miracles is nonsensical” the miners said.
Are the SGs justified?
According to the Mines and Minerals Act, the president of The Republic of Zimbabwe has the power to issue a special grant to a mining firm he sees fit to carry out mining operations on reserved land.
The act was given the power to supersede all other bills such as the water act and the environmental act, in 2015 an amendment bill was crafted trying to correct that but it was crushed and thrown out in 2018.
However, the same Mines and Minerals act section 2 gives room for consultation. The act acknowledges existing surface rights by way of engagement and also the same act provides for reservations where areas such as National Parks are placed under reservation and the only way to acquire mining rights in these areas are by applying for a special grant and the terms are, SG holders get consent from the owner of the reservation. It is, however, yet to be known that the National Parks were consulted and agreed to the grants issued to the two.
The concessions according to reports were granted back in 2019. Concerns mount as it’s not clear that EIA’s were done prior to the drilling operations.
Earlier this year, villagers in Lukosi in Hwange wrote to the Hwange Rural District Council to complain about air and land pollution caused by Zhongxin trucks along Nekabandama road. The community says pollution has put homes, schools, clinics, and irrigation schemes at risk. Communities around the Deka River have also protested about the pollution of water by mining companies upstream.
“We beseech the Hwange Rural District Council to exercise its constitutional role and ensure the company engages in dust suppression, secure sustainable development through the surfacing of the road leading to Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coking Company plant in the shortest possible time and ensure that the company fulfills its obligation to the community as per their pledge during consultations with the community.” Reads the petition by the community.
An increase in mining and mining-related activities in the Hwange National park is displacing animals from their natural habitats to human settlements, leading to frequent human-animal confrontations.
Allowing the Chinese to mine in Hwange National Park would be deliberately destroying the environment, rare wildlife species, and their habitat. The government should not be abetting the destruction of wildlife habitats by granting special mining concessions to Chinese companies to mine in protected areas given the history of Chinese firms’ failure to adhere to environmental rights.
Ivory Trade in China
China has the biggest ivory trade in the world and wildlife experts believe that around 70 percent of the world’s ivory ends up there.
In China and Hong Kong, ivory is seen as precious material and is used in ornaments and jewellery. It’s also sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Ivory smuggling in Zimbabwe
In 2018 former first lady Mrs. Grace Mugabe was investigated by the Zimbabwe government for illegal ivory smuggling after investigations by Australian wildlife photographer Adrian Steirn.
“Ivory was being sourced either from the national park’s vault, being thieved or pilfered or from live elephants being killed by poaching syndicates. The syndicate would then sell to Grace Mugabe’s clientele,” he said.