SHURUGWI: The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has made an announcement that the Mtebekwi river bank mining disaster has become an issue difficult to handle.
In a recent interview, EMA Midlands Province manager, Benson Bhasera said they have tried law enforcement methods that seem to be harvesting few results.
“It’s an issue that we have tried to tackle as a department. We have engaged the law enforcement agency on several raids but the people continue to come to the river.
“We have reached a point where we are saying the situation is not easy to deal with. The area is too rich in gold deposits and as such attracts a lot of illegal activities much to the detriment of the community at large,” Bhasera said.
Bhasera however says EMA remains seized with the matter.
Mutebekwi River in Shurugwi has been experiencing river bank mining invasions since May this year. In an earlier report where CommuTalk published the issue, Bhasera had vowed to bring culprits to book something he says has become a mammoth task now.
Activities in the area are against the dictates of the law which requires a two hundred metre distance from the river banks for any mining operations to be carried out.
ENR Private Limited is one of the three mining giants awarded a special alluvial mining grant by cabinet in a pilot project, giving them powers to de-silt rivers and process extracted ore and the mining firm’s Chief executive officer, Mahek Shah says they are carrying their operations within the confines of the law.
“We are doing everything in compliance with the special grant we were given by the government. As you can see, these are some of the deposits that have been extracted from the river through the desiltation exercise and we are waiting for the district administration officials to come on board before we could process. Anything else is not being done by us,” Shah said.
It is alleged that illegal miners riding on this platform and in the process causing massive damage on the edge of Mutebekwi River and the surrounding areas, much to the disgruntlement of the community.
Community members took turns to highlight how they have been affected by the illegal mining activities happening in the area.
“I was given this farm during the land redistribution exercise. What pains me most is that my livelihood has been destroyed as part of my farm has been taken over by these illegal miners. They come with all sorts of threats and now I don’t even know where to go,” said a villager, Alice Gwandida.
“This river used to be our source of livelihood. Now these illegal miners have barricaded the stream and people can no longer do irrigation downstream. We are in a mess. Some of these so-called miners should have consulted us before embarking on what they are doing,” another villager, Trynos Runyiwa said.
“People used to drink and wash using the water from this river. Since this de-siltation exercise started people have been deprived of their livelihood. We are appealing to authorities to intervene. They should have consulted us and sank some boreholes before embarking on what they are doping. We are in a mess in the face of the pandemic,” also added another villager, Charity Gomo.
Illegal mining activities have become a major source of worry in the gold rich Midlands province resulting in unending disputes between miners and farmers.
Government is, however, crafting a mines and minerals amendment bill to address conflicts within the sector.