By Business Reporter
HARARE (MINING Index) – REDWING Mine is allegedly causing serious air and water pollution affecting residents of the Penhalonga community in Manicaland province, who are pleading with environmentalists to take action.
This emerged after residents, having braved air and water pollution from Redwing Mine, complied and published the Penhalonga Community Environmental Audit Report in which residents sought to examine compliance of companies with laws, regulations and project certificate conditions.
In a letter written to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) dated 30 October 2017, residents sought to view conditions spelt in Redwings Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which EMA failed to produce.
EMA acknowledged, and advised the community that Redwing is operating without an EIA but instead acquired an Environmental Management Plan (EMP), which again, is yet to be availed to residents.
“It was previously ascertained that EIA was not developed for the mine, given its operations predated the enactment of Redwings Mine operations have resulted in the formation of large mine dumps,” read part of the statement in the audit report.
According to Zimbabwean law, the EIA should be open for public inspection upon payment of prescribed fee, where heads of public bodies are mandated to respond within 30 days from date of request, accepting or denying access to requested information.
Residents of Penhalonga revealed how Redwings operations have resulted in the formation and accumulation of large hill-sized mine dumps from residual gold mining.
The residue, called tailings, is a very fine and thin sand-like material which is a mixture of crushed rock, metals and other materials used to process gold.
These dumps have been a continuing source of air pollution especially households living within proximity.
“Some households are as close as 500 metres. During windy conditions, the level of dust becomes unbearable for approximately 700 families in the community,” said the report.
The audit report gave recommendations to ease the dust pollution which saw Redwing installing a water pump to remedy dust pollution, which, according to residents, is not a permanent solution to the problem.
The environmental audit report further revealed that Redwing is failing to contain its waste system resulting in sewerage spilling into Mutare River and the adjacent Nyahuku River.
The audit team noted various water points where water used by Redwing is discharged directly into Mutare River, with some discharge points marked by signs warning the public not to drink the water in the river, which in contradiction of Section 5 of the Effluent and Solid Waste Disposal (SI 6 of 2007) states that “No person shall dispose of waste or effluent into a public stream or into any other surface water or ground water, whether directly or through drainage or seepage, except under a licence.”
The report observed that workers at the mine were not adequately compensated leading to the rise of gold panning in the area to supplement income.
“Workers cited a number of concerns which include poor supply of protective clothing such as gumboots and overalls when the health and safety laws state that these are supposed to be given after three to six months respectively. Mine workers complained they were not consistently paid and in some cases went for months without remuneration.”
Gold panning has also caused serious land degradation, which has changed the once beautiful landscape of Penhalonga to a gullies and ditches which have become death taps to the community, with fears that a section of the road linking Penhalonga to Mutare may collapse into illegal mine shafts that have been dug underneath by artisanal gold miners, now approaching foundations of the tarred road.
According to the report, a community member drowned in one of the pits in 2016.
In August this year, Metallon announced the group was adopting a modernisation program in all its mines, with Managing Director Kimbton Chiota heading the Redwing’s US$150 million modernisation agenda.
With a JORC-compliant resource of 2.6 million ounces of gold, Redwing Mine expected to increase annual production to 200,000 ounces. ENDS//