Hwange game park is home to numerous species ©  paulafrench/Getty Images
Hwange game park is home to numerous species © paulafrench/Getty Images

Why was there a U-turn on mining in national parks?

10 September 2020

Zimbabwe has banned mining in national parks and rivers to protect wildlife after an outcry followed the decision to let Chinese companies mine for coal in a famous park.

Monica Mutsvangwa, minister for information, publicity and broadcasting services, announced the ban during a post-Cabinet media briefing, the state-owned Zimbabwe Herald reported.

Zimbabwe had planned to let two Chinese firms explore for coal at the Hwange game park, home to more than 40,000 elephants and numerous other species.

But campaigners had taken the government to court to prevent “ecological degradation” in parks after two firms were given a licence to explore for coal.

“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,” said Mutsvangwa.

“All riverbed alluvial and riverbed mining on rivers is banned with immediate effect, except on the Save and Angwa rivers where desiltation will be allowed under very strict conditions.”

She added that companies who possessed mining concessions would be given a grace period to obtain an environmental impact assessment from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.

Court documents filed by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association said the park would turn into a “site for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys” if the mining was allowed to proceed, the BBC reported.

The decision to ban mining along most river beds is likely to affect small-scale Chinese and local gold miners.

Meanwhile Zimbabwe could potentially generate over $1bn from exporting horticultural products because of geographical factors favouring production, a trade forum was told.

Tatenda Marume, manager for export development at ZimTrade, said during a horticulture export awareness virtual meeting that crop and flower exports could be dramatically increased with more private sector participation in the market.

Zimbabwe currently exports citrus fruits, flowers, peas and berries worth $120m annually.

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