Under legal pressure, Zimbabwe announces mining ban in national parks

Harare: Zimbabwe’s government says it has banned mining in its national parks, but an environmental group that had taken court action to stop the development of a coal mine in an elephant-rich park said it would insist on "more than just words".

Reports that a Chinese firm had started exploratory work to mine coal within Hwange National Park alarmed environmental and wildlife groups, who took legal action to stop it. In an apparent response to the legal proceedings, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced the government would not allow mining in national parks.

Giraffes at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.Credit:Imvelo Safari Lodges

The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association, which applied to the High Court to stop the project, welcomed the statement but said it would continue with the court process unless the government took legal steps to enforce the announced ban.

“The important thing for us is to get an interdict which is legally binding,” Shamiso Mtisi, the association’s deputy director, said.

Local environmental groups allege that mining in national parks has been going on for a while.

“We pray that all these mining titles (in Hwange) and others which are unknown to the public will indeed be cancelled,” the Centre for Natural Resource Governance said. It described the prioritisation of mining over “a more stable and eco-friendly” sector such as tourism as self-defeating.

Mining in the wildlife-rich southern African country’s national parks “is widespread,” said Mtisi of the environmental lawyers association.

“There is gold and diamond mining going on in several national parks across the country, it’s not just in Hwange. That’s a major threat to biodiversity and to tourism. It’s an economic issue, you cannot just rely on mining, you need to leverage on other sectors such as tourism,” said Mtisi.

In its court application to stop development of the coal mine, the association argued that mining in Hwange National Park may cause a decline in tourism and decrease the incomes of local residents who rely on it for income, while poaching and conflict between people and wildlife could increase.

More than 45,000 elephants are estimated to live in Hwange park along with more than 100 mammal species, including buffalo, leopard, and lion, and 400 bird species that are already struggling for food and water in the vast savannah due to a prolonged drought. Mining would pollute remaining water sources in the 14,500-square-kilometres park, say environmental groups.

The government also announced that it had banned alluvial mining along riverbanks.

AP

Most Viewed in World

Source: Read Full Article