Miners urged to reclaim land
Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
A FEW metres from Msasa Primary School along Shurugwi-Mhandamabwe Highway in Shurugwi District was a pit that has been a death trap to villagers and livestock, yesterday a Cabinet Minister led the locals in the reclamation process.
There are, however, many such pits in Shurugwi district as a result of gold panning activities.
The digging for minerals such as gold and chrome has left a trail of destruction of the environment along the Great Dyke.
Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mangaliso Ndlovu who led the locals in the reclamation of the dangerous pit near Msasa Primary School, said a Shurugwi farmer lost a US$3 500 pedigree bull that fell into one of the pits and died.
Reclamation works usually require huge amounts of money hence many companies involved in mining activities are reluctant to do the works thereby leaving villagers and their livestock exposed to the danger of falling into the dug pits.
It is against this background that Minister Ndlovu yesterday launched the national pits reclamation programme at Edwards Farm in Shurugwi District.
Minister Ndlovu was in Shurugwi North for the belated World Environmental Day national commemorations that were held at Msasa Primary School.
The Minister took time to visit Edwards Farm to see for himself the reclamation of the dangerous pit and launched the reclamation programme before joining villagers for the belated commemorations at the school.
The commemorations are held annually on June 5.
The dangerous pit that the villagers reclaimed with the help of bulldozers was left open by gold panners in 2018.
The pit was close to some homesteads making it a hazard to villagers and their livestock.
Minister Ndlovu who was accompanied by Chief Ntabeni from Zhombe, Chief Hama from Chirumanzu and Chief Nhema from Shurugwi and senior Government officials, said there is a need to put measures in place to force companies and individuals to reclaim pits.
Four bulldozers took turns to fill up the dangerous pit and Minister Ndlovu said that is what companies and individuals that dig up pits should do once they stop mining in an area.
“We have a lot of abandoned pits along the Great Dyke which are now a danger to people and their livestock. There is a case of a farmer who lost his US$3 500 bull after it fell and died in an unclaimed pit,” said Minister Ndlovu.
He said there is a need therefore for companies, individuals and locals to work together to reclaim pits in order to protect the environment, people and livestock.
Minister Ndlovu said individuals or companies that extract minerals such as gold and chrome must do the right thing which is reclaiming the pits before they leave the sites.
“We have a problem whereby miners come, extract minerals like chrome and leave these pits open expecting the Government or locals to reclaim the pits. It shouldn’t be like that, they must reclaim their pits because its them who would have made money from the minerals. When no owners are identified the Government is forced to reclaim the pits,” said Minister Ndlovu.
He said the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) should work with the Joint Operation Command (JOC) in monitoring the environment and make sure miners that dig pits reclaim them.
“I was talking to the Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution (Larry Mavima) and we agreed that EMA should work with JOC. EMA should be assisted to patrol and see to it that miners reclaim their pits before they leave,” said Minister Ndlovu.
Midlands province covers a 300km stretch of the Great Dyke hence it has many unclaimed pits which pose a danger to the environment, the people and livestock.
Minister Ndlovu said the extraction of minerals should be done in such a way that the environment, the people and livestock do not suffer.
EMA Midlands province manager Mr Benson Bhasera told Minister Ndlovu at the site that the pit which was closed yesterday was left in 2018 by illegal gold panners but the claim belongs to Unki Mines.
“This pit we closed today is located in Shurugwi North under a block where platinum mining is being done by Unki Mines. This block is reserved for Unki Mines but some people came and started mining and this is common in the province,” he said.
Mr Bhasera said the mining was illegal as the pit was only 400 metres from Mutevekwi River.
“This is the problem we experience where illegal miners just go onto a piece of land and start mining and then leave the pits open. We are glad that Minister Ndlovu is launching the national rehabilitation of pit reclamation in the province. This is a demonstration of how the rehabilitation of pits should be done,” he said.
Mr Bhasera said under the National Development Strategy (NDS1), EMA has prioritised rehabilitation of degraded areas.
“Minister you have been talking in Parliament without seeing the rehabilitation programme on the ground. Unki Mines has closed many pits like this one especially in Ward 16. This pit was 100 metres long and 40 metres wide,” he said.