Fears over cyanide poisoning at Ncema dam

Source: Fears over cyanide poisoning at Ncema dam – The Southern Eye

THERE are fears of cyanide poisoning at Upper Ncema Dam owing to mining activities  at Alice Farm in Umzingwane district, that are also posing a serious environmental threat.

This was revealed in the Bulawayo City Council latest report on the construction of a heap leach pad at Alice Farm in Umzingwane district near Upper Ncema Dam.



According to the report, council rangers recently identified a concerning development on Alice Farm within Umzingwane district.

“The proximity of the proposed pad to the Upper Ncema Dam increases the risk of accidental spills or leaks, which could lead to the contamination of the water body,” the council report read.

“Cyanide is highly toxic and poses a serious threat to aquatic life and human health. The potential long-term damage to the ecosystem and the local communities cannot be ignored.



“Environmental concerns associated with heap leach facilities revolve primarily around failure to contain process solutions within the heap leach circuit and their potential release onto the receiving surface and subsurface environment, with resultant impacts on the health of people, livestock and ecosystems.”

The report said a stakeholder meeting was convened by the council on March 21, 2024 to address environmental concerns emanating from mining activities.

“It came to light that the applicant for the heap leach pad completely bypassed the crucial step of obtaining necessary approvals from relevant authorities, including the Environmental Management Agency,” the report read.


Council noted that the heap leach pad posed a significant threat to the surrounding area and the local community.


“Immediate action is necessary to address this critical issue and ensure the protection of both the dam and the well-being of the people.”

Heap leaching is an industrial mining process of extracting  precious minerals, copper, uranium and other compounds from ore  using a series of chemical reactions that absorb specific minerals and re-separate them after their division from other earth materials.

“The concentration of the chemicals used in the heap leach circuit is similar to that in conventional mineral processing facilities,” the report read.

“Allied to this, the process solution is often exposed to the environment in open solution trenches and process ponds rather than being contained in process vessels with limited access, thus posing a much greater threat to animals.”