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By James Muonwa. Mashonaland West correspondent
A CHINESE-owned gold mine near Karoi recently released cyanide-laced slimes in the Angwa River, killing fish and putting lives in danger for the villagers downstream.
The river is rich with diverse aquatic life including fish and even crocodiles. It is home to many communities.
After reports from concerned villages that their lives and the lives of their fauna were at risk due to the release of cyanide-laden waste into the water bodies, panic set in last week.
The incident occurred at D-Troop Jiangxi Risheng Mine. There, a slimes damwall collapsed, resulting in the release of slimes into Angwa River, causing many fish deaths.
Munyaradzi Nihariswa, provincial spokesperson for Environmental Management Agency, confirmed the incident. This jolted both the agency and the district’s civil protection unit into action.
A EMA report was compiled after a visit to the scene and confirmed the environmental disaster.
The EMA report says that “The cut-off pits along the mine were not being maintained, leading to the overflow of slimes in the river. The slimes dam team did not react quickly enough to prevent slimes contamination of nearby rivers.
“The mine didn’t have an emergency response plan nor the ferrous Sulphate required to decontaminate the affected areas. The river’s contaminated water caused poisoning of fish species. Even the resilient Catfish wasn’t spared.”
The Environmental Protection Order was issued to the Chinese miner in terms of Section 37 of Chapter 20:27 of the Environmental Management Act. This order will ensure that continuous monitoring and decontamination are carried out, as well as engage local communities downstream.
The miner was also required to submit progress reports regarding the cleansing of the river.
Last week, EMA took preventative action by decontaminating three points of the river with ferrous Sulphate.
EMA quickly responded to reports of environmental violations in Chikuti’s gold-rich region. They also conducted compliance inspections at neighboring Morocco 7 and Take 25 mines where violations in handling highly toxic cyanide were found.
Also, there was a discharge of mining effluent. There were also no spillage contingency methods.
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The EMA ordered the closure of both mines, which were operating without Environmental Impact Assessment certificates (EIA) as required by law.
Morocco 7 had 100kgs cyanide. The cyanidation tanks in the tank were made of plastic material. This exposed the surrounding communities to the possibility of contamination in the event of an accidental spillage.
Three cattle died at Take 25 mine after they strayed into the mine’s unsecure carbon rooms and ate Cyanide.
EMA officials observed one carcass of a dead cattle carcass in the carbon rooms last week during inspection.
The miner had two cyanidation plants with a combined capacity of 15 tons each, located in an unfenced area.
The mine was also without proper storage facilities for hazardous substances.