Registered miners who are in the habit of hiring out their machinery to illegal miners will be made to pay for the land degradation caused by the unregistered miners, the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) has warned.
The warnings by the environmental regulatory entity comes at a time when Government last month banned all riverbed alluvial and riverbed mining on rivers except on the Save and Angwa rivers where de-siltation will be allowed under strict conditions.
Despite the ban, illegal miners in various parts of the country which include the Midlands and Matabeleland South provinces have continued with the interdicted activities in their search for the precious metal.
And, more than 500 illegal miners from Matabeleland South have also continued to disregard the ban on mercury as they continue to use it in riverbed mining to process gold at the confluence of Insiza and Umzingwane rivers.
In light of these developments, Ema is now reportedly engaging in an exercise for the rehabilitation of the land damaged by the illegal mining activities.
According to Matabeleland South Provincial Environmental manager Decent Ndlovu, the illegal miners were operating with assistance of regular miners who were supplying them with machinery in exchange for a stake.
Ndlovu said those assisting or hiring out machinery to illegal miners will be made to meet the costs of rehabilitating the damaged land.
“We recently conducted a raid at the confluence of Insiza and Umzingwane rivers where illegal mining activities were taking place. The illegal miners fled before we could get to them but we were able to confiscate the machinery that they were using which comprised compressors, generators among others. In a bid to justify themselves the owners of this machinery said they were not aware that their property was being used for illegal mining activities,” said Ndlovu.
“Now the individuals that supplied this machinery are accomplices and they will bear the costs of rehabilitating the land. The rehabilitation is ongoing and the contractor is on the ground and once the work is done we will hand over the bill to the owners of the machinery. These people are miners that are operating in different places. We have cases of miners that are supporting activities of illegal miners in exchange for a stake in these illegal mines,” he said.
Ndlovu also revealed that they were set to pounce on similar illegal mining areas in different parts of the province and those arrested risked paying fines ranging from as much as $36 000 to $120 000.
Ema’s Environmental Education and Publicity manager, Amkela Sidanke said in a statement that they were enforcing the ban on illegal mining activities by making the illegal miners bear the costs of rehabilitating damaged land.
“By supplying heavy machinery these people are conniving in the act as it’s the heavy machinery that damages the environment so they will also pay the costs of rehabilitating the land,” partly reads the statement.
Sidanke also said an estimated number of 1,5 million small-scale illegal gold panners across the country were operating in rivers, plantations, grazing areas, fields, urban areas, road, rail and electricity transmission servitudes and many other areas of socio-economic importance.
She said a recent survey done by Ema suggests that a total of 11 163 hectares of land and a stretch of 1 555km of riverine ecosystems have been degraded countrywide.