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Gold panners invade mine

by Staff reporter
26 Sep 2019 at 07:04hrs | Views
ABOUT 3 000 illegal gold panners have reportedly invaded a mining claim at Lonely Gold Mine in Inyathi, Bubi district, in Matabeleland North province after news spread that 3kgs of the mineral worth about US$135 000 was mined last week.

Lonely Mine is located about 80km north of Bulawayo and a few kilometres from Inyati Mission in the gold-producing Bubi greenstone belt.

The mine was the largest single gold producer in the area until its closure in the mid-1990s. Small scale miners have since taken over the mine, in form of mining claims, some of which have been lying idle due to lack of resources.

Bubi Rural District Council (RDC) chief executive officer, Mr Patson Mlilo, said the gold miners are even digging beneath houses in search of the precious stone. He said the gold rush started a week ago in Ward 1 and thousands of local panners and others from different parts of the country have invaded the gold mine with detectors and other mining tools.

"We received reports that about 3 000 illegal gold panners have descended on Lonely Mine in Inyathi. The panners include locals and some from as far as Shurugwi, Kwekwe, Harare, Filabusi, Esigodini and Nkayi.

"The mining area is pegged and the claim has owners. We're in the process of trying to locate them so that we bring order to the area. If they're not ready to work on the mine we'll suggest that they allow the community to mine gold under an arrangement where they also benefit," said Mr Mlilo.

He said while the country will benefit from the gold which the panners will sell to Fidelity, the RDC was worried about violence among the panners, environmental degradation and disease outbreaks due to lack of sanitation facilities.

He said the council had engaged the police and was in the process of engaging the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to bring order at the mine. "Normally when there's a gold rush in a mining area, the panners fight for the gold and they injure or kill each other. The environment is destroyed while infrastructure in the area is damaged. People are also affected by outbreaks of diseases due to lack of sanitation facilities," said Mr Mlilo.

He  said several trucks had been seen going to the area to drop hundreds of gold panners at the mine. Mr Mlilo said he had also received reports that the panners had destroyed a homestead as they are digging even underneath the houses in search of the gold.

EMA national spokesperson, Ms Amkela Sidange, also confirmed the development saying the agency will work with its partners to address the problem. She said unknown gold panners had invaded a registered mining claim in the absence of the owner.

"Usually our duty as EMA is to ensure that owners of mining claims operate after having done an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). If we discover that work is being done without the EIA, we penalise the owner of the claim.

"In this instance we can't do that because the claim has been invaded by unknown illegal gold panners and we can only work with the local authority and the police to bring sanity to the area," said Ms Sidange.

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Source - chronicle