MUTARE — The Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ)-OZGEO has clashed with the newly appointed Environmental Management Agency (EMA) board over the rehabilitation of the former’s old mines.
This emerged during EMA board’s maiden tour of DTZ’s Penhalonga, Odzi and Chimanimani mines last week.
During its tour, the 10-member EMA board, led by chairperson, Zenzo Nsimbi, accused DTZ of not fulfilling its obligation of rehabilitating its disused mines.
“What we are seeing here is that most of your mines were not rehabilitated as prescribed by the law. Yes, we acknowledge the aspect of illegal panners that are now coming in, but they are panning on mines that were not rehabilitated,” Nsimbi observed.
DTZ director, Ishmael Shillaev, argued that efforts to rehabilitate the mines were frustrated by the forced closure.
“We were (in the process of) rehabilitating, but only until government ordered us to stop operating. The country is operating in a harsh economic climate and that makes it difficult for us to fulfil our rehabilitation responsibility when we are not generating income. You need to consider that we also had to pay our employees for several months while we were not operating, so we couldn’t keep up with the rehabilitation costs,” pleaded Shillaev.
DTZ argued that is has rehabilitated 70 percent of their old mines, which were now being degraded by the illegal panners.
This has however, been disputed by EMA provincial officials although they could not support their argument with facts.
The Penhalonga and Odzi concessions have alluvial gold deposits, while the Chimanimani fields, located within Taka forest, have diamond deposits.
The alluvial gold mines were shut down in December 2013 following a government directive suspending all riverbed mining activities.
Following the directive, all former alluvial mining areas have now been invaded by illegal miners.
The directive was later followed up with a legal instrument prohibiting riverbed mining within 250 metres of water bodies from the previous 50 metres.
The instrument received widespread condemnation from various mining players who argued that productive mining could not be sustained under the new circumstances.
Since then efforts have been underway to lobby government to reverse the decision.
Employing 350 workers before its closure, DTZ lost US$21 million in potential revenue in 2014, while government lost a combined US$3 million in potential taxes.
The mining company is jointly owned by DTZ (40 percent), a brainchild of the late former vice president Joshua Nkomo, and Russian company, Econendra Limited (60 percent).
EMA board member, Felix Moyo, said DTZ had already been behind with its rehabilitation schedule way before the 2013 closure.
Meanwhile, concerns have been raised over possible conflict of interests within the EMA board considering that its chairperson is the corporate affairs executive of Metallon Gold Zimbabwe, which owns Redwing Mine, adjacent to DTZ’s Penhalonga mine.
Questions have also been raised over EMA’s impartiality.
Mining companies in the Chiadzwa diamond fields have since their inception never been taken to task despite wantonly breaching environmental laws through river pollution and land degradation.
Over 2 000 cattle have reportedly died in the Chiadzwa area from drinking water from the polluted Save and Singwizi rivers, while villagers are said to have suffered from various illnesses related to pollution.
Villagers residing within the vicinity of the diamond concession are also exposed to dust emanating from the Chiadzwa mining activities, which are causing terminal illnesses.
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