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Mining and EnvironmentNews

Chinese chrome miner ditches Lalapanzi operation

ONE of China’s leading chrome mining companies operating in Zimbabwe has abandoned its lucrative asset at Lalapanzi near Mvuma, after clashing with authorities over violations of environmental policies, it has emerged.

Gift Karanda, a businessman who was a local agent for SQNeed Chrome Zimbabwe, confirmed this week that the firm moved out of the chrome fields in the area, which it got from ZimAlloys in 2015.

“SQNeed closed office last year,” Karanda said in response to questions.

The firm moved to the claims after ZimAlloys was directed by government to cede about half of its claims.

While Karanda was not at liberty to disclose why SQNeed Chrome Zimbabwe left, government officials with knowledge of the developments confirmed that there were disagreements over environmental policy violations.

“The miner has been in constant clashes with the community over various environmental issues,” a source close to the developments said.

“But it is unfortunate that after all these years of destroying the environment, they just closed their office and are no longer operating.”

Lalapanzi straddles the Great Dyke, a mineral-rich geological formation that runs from the northeast of Zimbabwe to the southwest. Built around the chromium mining business, the largest mines in the area were operated by Lonrho (London Rhodesia Company) before independence.

The firm transferred its claims to Zimasco and ZimAlloys after independence.

Environmental Management Agency (Ema) spokesperson Amkela Sidanke promised to revert with a response, but had not done so.

Midlands Provincial Mining director Tariro Ndlovu had also not responded.

SQNeed Chrome Zimbabwe’s case is one of several in which there have been reports of environmental degradation in the Great Dyke involving Chinese firms.

These reports have been confirmed by Ema.

A recent investigation in Darwendale, Mashonaland West revealed that several Chinese chrome mining operations have since encroached on Cold Storage Company’s farming operations.

There has been massive land destruction in Darwendale where dangerous mining pits were left uncovered, exposing people and animals to danger.

Reports this week linked the firm to Tsingshan Iron and Steel Group, which is currently spearheading the construction of a billion-dollar stainless steel plant in the Midlands Province.

Another Chinese firm linked to the Tsingshan Group, Afrochine has also been accused of fueling environmental degradation in the Great Dyke.

Afrochine company secretary Wilfred Motsi said the chrome processing firm was going to be tough on miners not following proper mining regulations.

“If these tributary miners are doing irresponsible mining, we won’t engage them anymore and we will liaise with the Environmental Management Agency to penalise them,” Motsi said.

“Others lie in the name of Afrochine. We are a responsible company.”

When quizzed over the company’s links with SQNeed, he said: “Those are people who falsely claim that they work with Afrochine. There are liars out there.”

Ema this year told the Independent that it was going to punish chrome miners along the northern parts of the Great Dyke for failing to reclaim and rehabilitate mines, posing a grave danger to human beings and animals.

Several mining claims have been abandoned on cattle farms around the Darwendale Dam.

The abandoned pits have since been reclaimed by unregistered artisanal miners.

Ema provincial manager for Mashonaland West province Rambwayi Mapako said in an interview recently the agency had since prioritised rehabilitation of damaged land.

“Land degradation has become one of the greatest issues over the past years, especially along the Great Dyke range because it is a huge mineral reserve,” he said.

“Although all mining companies are subjected to the Environmental Impact Assessment process not all of them have been seeing this through.

“This has resulted in the majority of land being left un-rehabilitated. Some major players implicated in land degradation, especially along the Great Dyke, are Afrochine, Zimasco and ZimAlloys.

“Their operations are under monitoring by Ema and they are subject to prosecutions and environmental protection orders,” Mapako said.

He said some of the unrehabilitated chrome mines along the Great Dyke could not be accounted for. (The Independent)

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