WATCH: Stand-off at Nugget Mine: gold miners challenge minister, promise to stay put
Mashudu Netsianda, senior reporter
Uncontrolled illegal gold mining at the Nugget mine in Matobo district continues unabated, leading to massive land degradation that has also affected the on-farm crop studies of the Matopos Research Institute and caused death of purebred breeding cattle.
The mine is located on the farm of the Matopos Research Institute, comprising an area of 28,000 hectares leased to the Rhodes Matopos estate.
The farm, part of the Command Agriculture program which has produced bumper crops across the country, is also a center for international research aimed at improving agriculture in southern Africa and beyond.
Matopos Research Institute Farm is a vital national and international asset that seeks to improve animal and other crop production in Zimbabwe and the region.
The center is managed by the International Crops Research Institute of the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat), an international organization that conducts agricultural research for rural development.
Last month, Minister of State in the Office of the President and Cabinet responsible for monitoring and implementing special agriculture-related programs, David Marapira, issued an ultimatum to farmers to leave the property by August.
However, despite the ministerial directive, the illegal gold miners who spoke to The Chronicle yesterday vowed to stay put, arguing that gold panning was their only source of income.
When a Chronicle press team visited the mine, the area was teeming with artisanal miners operating in different sections of the mine and carrying out their illegal activities. The area was a beehive of activity as food vendors targeting rockfallers could be seen around the mine.
Honda Fit pirate taxis also ply the roads, some of them used by artisanal miners.
An illegal artisan, Mr. Thabani Sibanda (34) from the suburb of Emakhandeni, said he had survived illegal gold mining for five years. He said that despite numerous raids, he would continue to operate at the mine.
“There is nothing I can do except panning for gold to survive in these tough economic times. Every day I come here to mine for gold so that I can support my family, ”said Mr. Sibanda.
“The police come here for routine raids, but it’s a cat-and-mouse game and we’ll continue to maintain our presence because that’s where we get our money for food.”
Another artisanal artisan, Mr. Khulisani Nkomo (24) from Nkulumane said: “The authorities have given us an ultimatum to evacuate the Nugget mine, but I don’t see any of us leaving because we are going to starve.
Food vendor Ms. Emily Siziba from Mpopoma said business was booming at the mine.
“This is where I earn money for food, rent and school fees. I sell isitshwala, rice and meat to the artisanal miners and in the event that these people (miners) are driven out of this mine, it means that my family will starve because there is a lot of business here ”, she declared.
Minister Marapira, whose task is to ensure the monitoring and implementation of government programs focused on the command of agriculture, mechanization and development of irrigation, issues relating to environmental management and fires as well as climate change, visited the Nugget mine last month and expressed concern over land degradation.
He said it was necessary for the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, together with the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hotel Industry, the police and the Ministry of Lands, l ‘Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, develops appropriate mining policies that protect the environment.
“There is serious land degradation by illegal miners at the Matopos Research Institute farm. All the areas that we have traveled from the main road in Matopos to the road to Gwanda, we have seen a great extent of destruction caused by illegal miners, ”he said.
The minister then urged the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, the Environment Management Authority (EMA) and security organs to unite and end illegal mining activities.
EMA’s Provincial Director for Matabeleland South, Mr Decent Ndlovu, said illegal miners are destroying the environment and causing land degradation through their illegal mining activities.
“These illegal miners are a threat to the environment, which we as an EMA try to protect. So we are saying that even legally operating minors should be regulated to protect the environment, ”he said.
“We are concerned about the impact that these illegal mining activities are having on the environment. There should be proper mining policies to stop illegal mining activities, which can also regulate all legally operating miners. “
Ndlovu said local farmers hired to produce purebred cattle are also losing their cattle, which die after falling into pits dug by illegal miners.
One of the farmers affected by illegal mining, Mr. Andy Groenewald recently lost 50 cattle in the past two years to illegal gold [email protected]