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Report details demerits of Gwayi-Shangani mining venture

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 20 February 2011

Stakeholders have held a meeting where a report detailing the demerits of the mining venture was discussed.

A mine would destroy fauna in the region whose economic strength is in tourism

Liberation Mining was given a special grant to prospect for coal as well as coal-bed methane gas in the Gwayi-Shangani area by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development last year. However, the project was stopped because the mine owners had not done an environmental assessment.

The Liberation Mine claim is between Gwayi and Shangani rivers. It is 9.6km from the confluence with the Shangani River. Its claim outline is from the bridge on the Victoria Falls road up to Shangani River to the north and up to directly opposite Fatima to the south.

A document detailing the dangers to the wildlife, community and other development driven projects has been seen by the Sunday Times.

The document states that the mining project would have a coal and battery handling plant. This will also have a negative effect on the environment.

“There would be emission of gases. Gases to be emitted are carbon chloride, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and methane gas if underground mining is to be conducted.

“There would also be emission of chemicals. Chemicals involved would be benzene, naphthalene, tar and ammonia. Dust would also be involved, which could result in global warming. These will all affect the pattern of the climate,” reads the document.

The document also touches on the economic benefits of the Gwayi-Shangani dam, which was on the initial plan for the Zambezi water project before the mining idea was mooted. The mine has, however, taken precedence over the dam, because by law in Zimbabwe mining takes centre stage ahead of anything else.

“The Gwayi-Shangani dam has generational benefit as opposed to the mine, which has a short-term benefit of only the mining period. The dam is more of a regional benefit, as it will create a green belt right across the Matebeleland region extending to other dry-prone-area of regions of Masvingo. The dam is foreseen as a solution to the dry geographical regions 4 and 5 as far as drought is concerned,” says the document.

The Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu and the Minister of Water Resources Samuel Sipepa have been at loggerheads over this issue.

Mpofu argued that the mine will go a long way to developing Matabeleland, while Sipepa argued that the mine would destroy fauna in the region whose economic strength is in tourism.

The mine project will, in the long run, affect the Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area.

“The mine will be placed within the borders the Zimbabwean component of the Okavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area. The key objective of the KAZA TFCA is to join fragmented wildlife habitats into an interconnected mosaic of protected areas and trans-boundary wildlife corridors, which will facilitate and enhance the free movement of animals across international boundaries.

“Placing a mine in this Transboundary park will affect the free movement of animals negatively. The area designated for mining serves as a corridor between Hwange National Parks, Forestry Commission land and the Gwayi Intensive Conservation Area with the Binga Conservation Area. Removing this corridor will obstruct the free movement of animals such as the presidential elephants,” the stakeholders argue.

Tourism will suffer a great deal.

“Spot hunting and photography will be greatly affected as the mine site is within their reach from a natural point of view. The birdlife and animal species will be pushed away by the high volume of human activity undertaken in the mine. Hunting and photographic safaris that had decreased had started to pick up, but all of this will now be doomed to failure.

“Lodges and safaris will be affected by dust and noise. Animals will move deeper into National Parks areas, leaving photographic safaris nonfunctional. Vehicles from the mine will take any route, including the shortest along the Ntundla rail line.”

The stakeholders also raised concern over poaching activities that might escalate as a result of the mine operations.

“Poaching is a big concern. In general the accessibility of the area designated for mining will increase with the development of roads, allowing poachers to have easy access into the area to set their snares,” said Langton Masunda, the chairman of the Hwange-Gwayi-Dete Conservation and Tourism Association.

Liberation Mine has since contracted Michael Montana, a senior environmental consultant with Guardian Services to come up with an environmental assessment document.

By: Vladimir Mzaca
Source: Times Live

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