Zimbabwe bans mining in national parks to protect the wildlife

Zimbabwe’s Government has banned mining in its national parks. It was in response to the protests that took place after the Chinese companies were permitted to explore for coal in one of the world’s premier elephant reserves.

The government declared to put a halt in the mining process because of the weeks of campaigns that were conducted to stop the Chinese coal-mining grants in Hwange, Zimbabwe’s largest national park.

The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association, on Wednesday, welcomed the government’s decision to ban all mining activity there.“The important thing for us is to get an interdict which is legally binding,” Shamiso Mtisi, the association’s deputy director, said.

According to the court case filed by the Zimbabwe Environment Law Association, the permits in the Hwange National Park were apparently given without the required environmental permission.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s mines minister, Winston Chitando told the reporters, “All special grants held in national parks will be cancelled.”

Hwange is home to around 50,000 endangered species, out of which there are 45,000 elephants and other animals such as black rhinos and African wild dogs which make up to other 5 thousand. This park is situated in north-western Zimbabwe which forms a part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area that spans the borders of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia containing about half of the world’s elephants.

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association’s Richard Ncube said that despite the win they are going ahead with the court challenge.“The reason is that we still have a valid argument to make, as long as there are still valid authorizations that allow the mining company to continue mining in the national park, we still have a case to make and we have to get an order before the court so as to stop the mining companies from the mining,” he added. The association’s main concern is that the mining inside Hwange National Park risks permanent damage to the ecology.

“The mining concession was granted in 2015 to Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) who have held that mining concession since then. They haven’t done much work on the concession and they proceeded to get a partner to undertake mining in the particular area,” Winston Chitando said. The ZMDC was permitted before President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power, he further added.

In the High Court’s petition against the mining in Hwange, Chitando and ZMDC act as defendants by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association. It also names Zimbabwe’s Environmental Management Agency and two Chinese mining companies.

However, these environmentalists fear that without the court’s order, the government could exempt the companies or easily reverse this ban on mining in national parks.

Simiso Mlevu a spokeswoman for the Center for Natural Resource Governance said, “We don’t think there is any tourist who would visit Zimbabwe to check on production of any mine. Tourists are attracted by wildlife. We hope the government will genuinely stay by its word.”

Tourism is one of the industries that Zimbabwe hopes, will revive the country’s struggling economy. Besides, a group that represents the tourism industry made a direct appeal to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to halt the mining. “Please choose to protect this place where elephants gather to drink,” Blessing Munyenyiwa, said on behalf of the group. “Only you have this power,” he added.

Nevertheless, China is a major investor in Zimbabwe and that investing in coal mining will surely help Zimbabwe to become a net energy exporter by 2023.

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