By Silas Nkala
HWANGE residents under the Greater Whange Residents Trust (GWRT) are opposed to plans by a Chinese coal mining company, Afrochine Smelting to mine at Deka Safari because of the area’s closeness to Sinamatela National Park.
The residents recently took the same company to court for its exploration work along the Deka River arguing the activities would contaminate Mandavu dam and disturb the natural habitat of animals.
GWRT coordinator Fidelis Chima said Afrochine should involve safari operators, local civic groups, local communities and other institutions involved in environmental issues before going ahead with the project.
“We are working on a petition in regards to that,” Chima said.
“The government should consider clean energy such as solar and hydro power and come up with mechanisms of transitioning from dirty energy that causes pollution, land degradation and respiratory diseases.”
In an inquiry to stakeholders through its agent, Zimflow Investment, the Chinese company noted it proposes to establish a coal washing, coking plant and a small brick moulding plant along Deka Road.
“The plants will occupy 9,7 hectares of the land. The project scope involves land clearing, construction and operations of the plants and waste management,” reads the inquiry.
“May you kindly assist SustiGlobal Consultancy to identify potential environmental, social, economic and health impacts and suggest mitigation or enhancement measures for the proposed project by participating in the stakeholder consultation process through this questionnaire?”
But Association for Tourism Hwange chairperson Elizabeth Pasalk said they received a notice from SustiGlobal Consultancy that they have been given a special mining grant at the Deka Safari amid their fears that tourism would be destroyed in the area.
“We understand they were given 3710 hectares of land close to Hwange National Park to do coal mining.
“The area is also close to Shangano cultural site for the Nambya people and these mining activities will affect culture,” Pasalk said.
“As safari operators we have since sent a statement to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to reconsider issuing of special mining grants in safari and national parks areas.
“We expect him to exercise his discretion on that.
“Mining in safaris affects the tourism ecosystem and is detrimental to the environment.
“We do not agree with mining in safari areas. Afrochine has sent us questionnaires and we are yet to respond to them on the mining grant.”
SustiGlobal chief consultant, Oliver Tafa said he had not yet received complaints from any stakeholder.
“All I can say is that special grants can be in an environment where there are parks but the environment laws do not allow mining to encroach into parks and safaris,” Tafa said.
“So we will always respect that. As for now we are waiting for stakeholders to respond to our questionnaires then we will know their concerns.”