MOST parts of Gwanda have small-scale, large-scale and artisanal miners who have been blamed for the environmental damage in the district, yet they are not committed to developing the areas of their operations.
Community members and local authorities have raised concerns that although mining activities have been taking place for many years, there was still poor infrastructure in their areas where miners were operating from.
Ms Audrie Nyoni of Altra High, a new suburb in Gwanda town, said the road network in the suburb was in a sorry state. In addition, access to water was a mammoth task for residents, yet just a few kilometres from the suburb, the hammer mills are heard crushing the gold ore.
Nine kilometres from Gwanda is the Big Ben mining area where several small claim miners extract the precious mineral from. Residents argue that the wealth around Gwanda has failed to translate into development for the district.
“We have nothing here, but we wonder why this is happening when Gwanda is rich with mineral resources like gold.
We always have sleepless nights because of the noise coming from the hammer mills close to our residence. Gwanda has a lot of gold deposits, but all this wealth does not translate to development,” said Ms Nyoni.
Mr Fezile Ndlovu of the Mtshabezi area said some rivers and dams have been damaged by artisanal miners who dig in the rivers in search of alluvial gold.
“Artisanal miners searching for alluvial gold always leave serious damage to our water sources such as dams and rivers, especially the Mtshabezi river. The sad part of it is that most of these miners leave open pits and do not contribute to development.”
Mr Ronald Moyo of Spitzkop suburb said miners were working on land which was reserved for housing.
“The place which is earmarked for the expansion of Gwanda town has pits left by artisanal miners. How would the town expand when there are pits all over? The worst part of it is that recently some panners were chased away by authorities while digging towards the railway line and Gwanda-Bulawayo Road and Bina area,” Mr Moyo said.
Environmental conservationist Mr Khumbulani Maphosa said miners must take care of the environment as stipulated by the law.
“There are others who want to survive from the same environment but using different forms of survival. Some are farming, some are collecting wild fruits, some are collecting medicine from the trees, and some are cattle ranching.
“Water also for the communities comes from there, so miners must rehabilitate the land after getting their gold.”
He said miners must liaise with the local leadership and leave a certain percentage of their proceeds to the community for development and pits filling.
Gwanda Residents Association secretary-general Mr Simbarashe Tafaranavo said they expected mining companies to help the community, especially on health issues.