Zimbabwe diamond mining companies continue dumping toxic waste in public rivers


Diamond mining companies operating in Marange in Manicaland province of Zimbabwe are reported to be continuing to dump toxic waste polluting rivers which are accessed by animals and people in the area.

This is ongoing despite an investigation initiated by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) which exposed their operations in 2012.This has posed a threat to  livelihoods in the local communities.

The study of the impact of mining activities on the water quality of the Save and Odzi rivers was commissioned by ZELA in the period 5 to 13 July 2012 and a report was compiled by the organization on the ongoing activities.

At Africa Business Online we published a story based on the on-goings accessed on this link:
http://africabusiness.com/2013/04/13/zimbabwe%E2%80%99s-new-found-diamonds-a-curse-or-blessing-for-local-communities/

The investigation followed widespread reports that water quality had deteriorated to the extent that most of ecosystem services which include potable water, livestock watering and irrigation that used to be derived from these natural ecosystems had been lost.

According to ZELA, the objectives of the study were to determine the water quality in the Save and Odzi rivers and make appropriate conclusions about the state of the environment and the potential impacts on human health and livelihoods in the Marange diamond mining region.

ZELA reports that 10 study sites were sampled and this included suitable reference sites selected on each river outside the diamond mining areas to give comparison of the effects before and after mining discharges.

Twenty physical and chemical water quality parameters were measured along with nine heavy metal elements and four micro-biological parameters, according to the report produced by ZELA published with support from the Ford Foundation, office for Southern Africa.

The report notes that the results were evaluated against established World Health Organization (WHO) standards and Zimbabwe effluent
standards.

“Mining effluent discharges into rivers have been attributed by the community to the operations of Marange Resources (Pvt) Ltd,Diamond Mining Corporation (DMC) and Anjin (Pvt) Ltd, a local chinese-owned company,” the report says.

According to ZELA in the report, the results of the study have shown large scale impacts that include siltation, chemical pollution and also heavy metal pollution.

All these are reported to have arisen as by-products of the mining processes.

ZELA Head of Programmes, Shamiso Mtisi says the study was conducted by ZELA in collaboration with the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) Biological Sciences department.

Mtisi said that following the study, a legal route was taken to support the local communities against the companies but pollution in the rivers is continuing unabated posing a threat to local livelihoods.

He added that judgement on the case had been reserved and they hope it would resume early this year.

“We were previously informed that the court records had been misplaced and this initially caused problems in moving forward with the case.We made efforts and accessed copies of the court documents for the case to resume,” Mtisi said.

Mtisi added that the case was allocated to a judge, an indication that there could be progress soon.

He also said that there had been no positive action from the government’s environmental committee to redress problems of environmental pollution in the areas.He said there were fears that following reports of dwindling resources, the involved companies could cease operations and vacate the mining areas.

“If such a scenario develops,this could leave the affected communities without receiving any form of compensation on damages
inflicted,” Mtisi said.

The activities are on-going amid recent reports by a Zimbabwe representative for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Institute for Sustainability Africa who expressed the need for the country to introduce an environmental tax on companies involved in environmental damage and degradation.

The representative, Rodney Ndamba made the remark in a presentation on fiscal regimes in mining contracts and overview on mining taxes in Zimbabwe.

The presentation was made at a recent pilot civil society and community training workshop on contract review and monitoring in the mining sector in Zimbabwe.

The workshop was convened by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA).

It was meant to provide scope for addressing the limited capacity of civil society organisations and community groups to analyse and monitor mining contracts and revenue flows.

According to Mutuso Dhliwayo, ZELA Director, mining contracts are critical in that they set out the legal terms and conditions of any investment in the sector.

“These obligations may be on tax and revenue sharing, social development,environmental,occupational health and safety and
operational or production requirements,” Dhliwayo said.

Ndamba outlined a number of tax regimes currently existant in the mining sector and highlighted the absence of an environment tax regime which he said could bring to significance the importance of the environment.

“If an environmental tax is introduced in the country, people and companies will begin to take serious issues to do with safeguarding the environment,” Ndamba said.

He gave the example of South Africa where he said such a tax is operational and is helping to protect the environment.


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