EMA halts Hualin’s EIA certificate renewal – #Asakhe – CITE

Source: EMA halts Hualin’s EIA certificate renewal – #Asakhe – CITE

The Hualin quarry mine in Pumula, Bulawayo, is operating with an expired Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate after the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) suspended the renewal process to allow the mining company to address concerns expressed by neighbors over blasting activity.

Currently, EMA can only issue a ticket fine since the company is functioning without a current EIA certificate until it fixes its certificate.

An EIA certificate is a document that outlines the potential environmental impacts of a proposed project and is issued by EMA after reviewing the proposed project and determining whether it will have a significant impact on the environment.

When the EIA certificate expires, it means a project must go through EIA processes again to make sure that it meets all the necessary requirements.

This was revealed by EMA EIA technician in Bulawayo Thabiso Kesa, during a stakeholders engagement meeting convened on Tuesday by the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) that seeks to build trust and strengthen accountability between communities, government and other stakeholders.

Residents in Pumula North have complained of intense blasting from mining activity, which has resulted in structural cracks in their homes.

In response to these concerns, Kesa said EMA has not renewed Hualin EIA’s certificate which expired last year in May, two years after it was issued in 2021 following residents’ concerns about the mine blasting.

“Their EIA certificate was issued in May 2021. The initial one is valid for two years, thus why you see they were trying to renew last year because that is when it expired. When they came to us seeking to renew, we told them that we have been getting a lot of complaints because of their operations,” said the EMA EIA technician.

“People are complaining that their blasting is affecting their houses. We went on ground and told them we were not going to give them a decision yet because they are supposed to go on ground and do assessments again.”

Kesa said EMA has been going around Pumula doing its stakeholder verifications about the mining activity.

“There were forms we were giving people to fill and they returned them. We noticed that in these forms residents were complaining about the blasting, that their houses are cracking including windows. We took that into consideration and took the same form to the Council and the Ministry of Mines,” said the EMA official.

Kesa said EMA is currently monitoring Hualin quarry mine trial blasting to make sure it complies with regulations.

“If you paid attention, there were numerous instances of continuous blasts last year. Those were the trial stages, since we had requested the Ministry of Mines, the regulatory authority in charge of blasting, to assist us, and they comunciated with Hualin. We went to monitor the trials,” Kesa said.

She explained there is legal and illegal blasting, which the Ministry of Mines regulates.

“We are still waiting for a report,” said the EMA official.

Kesa stated Hualin quarry mine’s application was not successful as they took concerns brought to them by the residents and the local authority.

“Based on the stakeholder verifications that were filled by residents, the city council and the Ministry of Mines made a decision in response to their application. Our response was their application was unsuccessful,” said the EMA official.

“We told them there were concerns brought to us by the City of Bulawayo, residents and we urged them to look into those issues, only then can EMA reconsider their application.”

The trial blasting is still ongoing with the Ministry of Mines looking for the specific allowed pattern, Kesa said, noting this was done to make sure the blasting does not cause  much impact.

“The Ministry of Mines has specific allowed levels that they look at. If your concerns are rated low or high, the Ministry of Mines  has to explain that to you,” she said.

Kesa said EMA would renew Hualin’s EIA certificate if the Ministry of Mines informed them the company’s blasting and explosives is under law

“The response that we gave them is to fix their things. We didn’t say they should stop operations. We will issue the certificate when their things are now in order. The law doesn’t allow us to say they should close, all we can do is to give them a ticket for operating without a valid EIA certificate,” she said.

Meanwhile, Kesa said the current blasts that residents are experiencing was the only way for the Ministry of Mines to monitor the “correct allowed pattern.”

“The  Ministry can only get that if the mine blasts, if they don’t do that you will also cry when things get worse,” she explained.

Kesa added  Hualin quarry mine was also tasked to re-do the stakeholder consultations

“They are supposed to submit an Environmental Management plan which comes with stakeholder consultations, we want to see what all the residents are saying for us to be fair,” said the EMA official.