THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is working on a plan to control illegal mining activities countrywide after gold panners degraded over 11 000 hectares of land and destroyed rivers.
EMA’s manager for environment and education, Ms. Amkela Sidange yesterday said illegal mining activities were widespread, especially in rural areas, and were affecting the nation in a number of ways. She said the country had more than 1,5 million illegal gold panners operating in rivers, plantations, grazing areas, and fields.
“A recent survey by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) suggests that 11 163 ha of land and a stretch of 1 555km of riverine ecosystems have been degraded countrywide,” she said.
Ms. Sidange said the illegal miners were very mobile while their activities were spatial.
The agency was compiling an inventory on illegal mining as part of the regular updating of statistics to assist the State in decision making.
“The agency has also noticed that restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic have ushered in complacency among the public resulting in a surge in environmental violations.
“The agency, in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, is seized with the obtaining situation and has put in place strategies to protect the environment from further damage,” she said.
She said several raids were carried out recently at the confluence of Umzingwane and Insiza rivers in Matabeleland South.
There were teams on the ground to contain illegal mining activities in Chimanimani, Manicaland. Ms. Sidange said illegal mining activities were creating conflict in land use and had competing interests and claims with agricultural activities thereby affecting food security in the country.
Illegal mining remained a threat to lives, infrastructure, river flows, water quality, and quantity.
“Hot spots for illegal gold panning all over the country include areas such as Gadzema, Chakari, and Battlefields in Mashonaland West, Globe and Phoenix, Yolks and Wanderer in Midlands Province, Tarka Estate in Manicaland Province, Nugget and Vhovha in Matabeleland South Province.
“In Mashonaland Central, we have, Kitsiyatota, Msasa, Jumbo, Mukaradzi and Rosa.”
She said Mazowe, Odzi, Angwa, Kwekwe, Tokwe, Musengi, Munyati/Sanyati, Umzingwane, and Insiza were some of the rivers affected by illegal mining activities.
The increase in veld fires was also related to illegal mining activities.
Investigations were in progress to net those behind illegal mining activities along the Mazowe River in Chipwere village in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe.