In just under one week, the contentious coal mining exploration concessions in Hwange National Park granted to two Chinese companies have been scrapped.
Zimbabwean government officials have banned mining in national parks with immediate effect.
This according to the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting, who announced the news on Tuesday after a Cabinet briefing.
Mining on areas held by National Parks is banned with immediate effect. Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining title held in national parks. pic.twitter.com/XbUwfcLvKY
— Ministry of Information, Publicity & Broadcasting (@InfoMinZW) September 8, 2020
Conservationists, local communities and the Zimbabwean tourism sector have been on edge since the end of August, after reports that two Chinese companies, Afrochine Energy, part of the China-based Tsingashan Group, and Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coal Mining Group, were allegedly granted concessions to conduct exploratory drilling operations in Zimbabwe’s prestigious Hwange National Park.
Mining Zimbabwe reported that after the briefing, it was announced that no mining is allowed to take place in 10 national parks in Zimbabwe.
The parks were listed as Chizarira National Park, Gonarezhou National Park, Hwange National Park, Kazuma Pan National Park, Mana Pools National Park, Matobo National Park, Matusadona National Park, Nyanga National Park, Victoria Falls National Park and Zambezi National Park.
Stakeholders were sent an environmental impact assessment (EIA) by SustiGlobal, which was not dated, and posed vague and basic questions about the prospect of mining for coal in Hwange National Park.
Although rhino and wildlife NPO Bhejane Trust director Trevor Lane told The Citizen on 3 September it was likely that bids to mine for coal in Hwange Park would be quelled, the issue remains that no one was consulted on the drilling operations until they were sent the EIA.
But thanks to pressure from at least 50 tour operators in the area, in addition to environmental organisations and media reports condemning government’s granting of exploration concessions, it took just a few days for government to make an about-turn on its decision.
Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe’s Colin Gillies told The Citizen last week that the areas selected for mining exploration are near three recently developed luxury camps.
He said the effect coal mining in the park would have had on tourism in the region would have been catastrophic, putting further pressure on Zimbabwe’s ailing economy.
Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Act of 2014 allows for mining in national parks in the country, if permits have been granted by the minister of mines or the president.
It is not yet clear if the Act will have to be changed to accommodate government’s decision to ban all mining in national parks.