Source: Gache Gache mining stalls | The Herald October 26, 2016
Walter Nyamukondiwa: Chinhoyi Bureau
The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) has temporarily suspended mining operations in Gache Gache area where gold and platinum deposits were discovered recently to allow compliance with environmental regulations and tradition. There are also reports that a pride of lions was being seen during the day, threatening workers, while operations had hit a rock on the Gache Gache riverbed, resulting in water gushing out uncontrollably.Efforts to control the water were met with limited success, prompting consultations with the local leadership on the way forward. Locals viewed this as a bad omen and a sign that the operations had not been “accepted” by spirit mediums in the area. They contend that ZCDC did not fully comply with traditional requirements when it started alluvial gold mining operations along Gache Gache River as it pours into Lake Kariba.
Said Gache Gache ward 2 councillor Gilbert Chibayamagora: “They (ZCDC) have stopped operations and their equipment is on-site. We are told they are preparing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report in compliance with requirements of the Environmental Management Agency.”
Failure to prepare an EIA resulted in EMA issuing ZCDC with four orders and four tickets for contravening Section 97 (1) of the EMA Act as read with Statutory Instrument 92 of 2014.
An EIA allows for consultations with stakeholders including people in the area where a project is going to be conducted. It previews the likely effects of the operations on the environment and the people with proposed remedial action.
As a result of the developments officials from ZCDC reportedly approached Chief Msampakaruma who advised them to consult a medium by the name VaNhovera in Hurungwe.
“They were told to conduct a drum beating ceremony at the area and get sacred cloths which they were supposed to present before mediums such as Chitenhe among others,” said another villager.
Lions are predominantly nocturnal which means they mostly operate at night and rarely frequent areas where human activities are taking place. Asked on why they suspect that the lions were the gods sending a warning, Clr Chibayamagora conceded that the area was a wildlife area but warned that matters of the underworld could be easily understood.
“We know that spirits take the form of wild animals when they want to communicate a message since time immemorial. Our fears were that workers were at risk of being attacked by the animals,” he said.
A ceremony was conducted on Sunday appease the spirits. ZCDC is carrying out alluvial mining with equipment such as excavators, dumper trucks and a Knelson Centrifugal Concentrator among others.
However, the company, which is operating as a special purpose vehicle for government has fallen foul with the environment regulator EMA where it is accused of discharging effluent back into Gache Gache River.
It also stands accused of not setting up effluent holding ponds and a slime dam for processing of waste. The company has failed to prepare an EIA, which is a prerequisite before any activity commences. ZCDC, which is operating on an estimated 700 hectare area of land is allegedly leaving large volumes of sand material on Gache Gache riverbed raising fears of siltation.
The silt, it is feared, will subsequently be washed into Lake Kariba to the detriment of its water holding capacity and activities such as fishing and movement of boats.
Before the cessation of operations, the plant operated on a 24 hour basis. Production output at the plant is a closely guarded secret with officials saying currently the company was carrying out exploration work and not yet mining.
Gold deposits were discovered together with platinum and palladium minerals along the Gache Gache River in July and Government moved in to extract the minerals after it emerged that the deposits had great potential of being profitable.
Another company Townsend is extracting sand which is being used for the expansion of the Kariba South Power Station by Sino Hydro. ZCDC metallurgist Mr Sebastian Mabenge said he could not comment as he was in a meeting before referring questions to acting CEO Dr Ridge Nyashanu who was also said to be in a meeting.