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Environmental scars from mercury, gold detectors

By Business Reporter – 14 December 2018

HARARE (Mining Index) – EXTENSIVE use of mercury and gold detectors by artisanal and small-scale gold miners has caused serious environmental injustices  posing risk to livestock and human health, leaving scars of environmental damage resulting from exploration, extraction and processing of minerals, that require millions of dollars to correct.

Environmental Management Agency (EMA) acting Manager and Environmental Impact Assessor  Mr Nelton Mangezi lamented on the continued use of mercury and gold detectors. “This thing (referring to a gold detector) has caused serious havoc to the environment.”

Use of XRF detectors has significantly contributed to land degradation in most parts Zimbabwe.

“Midlands, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and Matebeleland South have been the most affected by use of gold detectors,” said Mangezi, calling upon Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) and the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to look into the use of gold detectors, effects and solutions to land degradation.

“There is need to ensure that these activities are carried out in a sustainable way to keep the wheels of the economy running into the next generations hence need for environmental protection,” he said.

Environmental injustices led to the Minamata Convention, which Zimbabwe is a signatory to.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global agreement aimed at reducing mercury pollution, which recognises risks of using mercury in gold mining, calling nations to reduce, and where feasible, eliminate mercury use by promoting mercury-free methods of gold mining such as panning, sluicing, shaking tables, spiral, vortex, centrifuges, magnets, flotation and direct smelting.

Dangers of mercury to human health include loss of peripheral vision, lack of coordination, impairment of speech, hearing , walking;   muscle weakness and insomnia. Mercury also affects foetus when the exposure to pregnant women and affects new babies.

Children, toddlers and women are exposed to mercury contamination, some of the children were playing around the mercury contaminated slurry around the processing plants, Wanderer mine Shurugwi District.

Mangezi revealed that the rehabilitation legacy require $32 million to rehabilitate decommissioned mines.

“On decommissioned mines, the last assessment we did as rehabilitation legacy estimated US$32 million required for that rehabilitation to deal with residual impacts of mining for mainly large scale operations or fly-by-night small-scale operations,” he said.

How can we invest in artisanal and small scale mining with such environmental injustices that have caused massive destruction on our land? Below are some of the visuals on harmful effects of mining in Zimbabwe.

Illegal mining occurring close to Kwekwe Town infrastructure posing a risk to residents and infrastructure.
$15 million worth of timber plantation completely destroyed at Taka Forest, Chimanimani, Manicaland.
Degraded Mazoe river bed. Communities have to walk miles to fetch water for domestic use.
Massive land degradation due to small scale mining: Matebeleland South
Cyanide poisoning at a mine in Gweru.
Miners cyanidation ponds resulting in the death of birds and dogs in Kadoma
Neta chrome, contrasting scenarios, at the time of visit other villagers had grown crops, Mrs Sibanda had not due to “contractual obligation”.
Un-rehabilitated open cast mining pit left at Pangani Mine in Filabusi: three people had drowned in this pit by 2012.
Waste proliferation at one of the illegal mining camps.
Mismanagement of Hazardous substances: Use of mercury at Wanderers mine in Shurugwi using bare hands. Mercury gets absorbed in the skin.
Illegal mining camps along the Great Dyke:- No toilets, keeping of hazardous substances, waste proliferation, sources of veld fires.

Derelict mines and abandoned, small scale mining sites will continue to plague taxpayers as well as being a public safety and environmental risk.

“Their legacies arguably represent a risk to the mining industry’s public acceptance and the image of sustainable mining practises in Zimbabwe,” said Mangezi. ENDS//

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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