Friday, 9 July 2021


HUNDREDS of artisanal miners who invaded areas around Mutare River are a great danger, not only to themselves, but to the general public as they continue alluvial gold excavation without any regard of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations and precautionary measures.

More illegal miners are also camped in Odzi. When The Manica Post visited the Premier area last week on Friday, artisanal miners from across Manicaland were busy with their illegal mining activities without observing physical distancing.

They were not wearing face masks. Vendors mainly from Mutare are cashing in on the situation by selling fast foods, cigarettes, second hand clothes, soft drinks and alcohol to the artisanal miners.

Notwithstanding the current chilly winter morning temperatures, organised workmen log in as early as 6am clad in torn shorts or denim trousers.

Alluvial soil widely known as mutaka is collected from yawning holes and gullies using buckets, some 25 metres deep. The soil is packed in sacks and transported to purification points downstream.

Private transporters with lorries or small trucks have also found business in ferrying the alluvial soil to the purification points.

In a rare act of hospitality and tolerance uncharacteristic of artisanal miners, they granted interviews to this newspaper and opened up on their sense of immunity from Covid-19.

Mutasa South Ward 22 Councillor, Cleopas Samanga, said no Covid-19 cases have been reported in the area.

“We have been working without any challenges as far as Covid-19 is concerned. We have in excess of 500 artisanal miners working here. The number increases as you go down Mutare River. No Covid-19 cases have been reported here.

“There is no way one can put on a face mask with the nature of work done here. For us Covid-19 is not an issue at all,” said Cllr Samanga as he spoke with the aura of a leader.

Ironically, Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Luxson Chananda said they have not heard of the surging numbers of gold artisanal miners in the Premier area apart from the “small numbers” that have always been playing hide and seek with law enforcement agents.

“We have not received any reports of a sharp increase in the numbers of people at Premier area apart from the usual small numbers that have always been playing hide and seek with law enforcement agents.

“We are fully aware that their operations go beyond Covid-19 in terms of compliance with the law. Their operations entail the use of harmful substances that endanger lives of people downstream.

“We will continue monitoring the situation with the aim of restoring total sanity and orderliness in the area,” said Inspector Chananda.

Apart from the fear of a spike in the spread of Covid-19 due to artisanal mining, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) also has its concerns related to the well-being of the ecological system.

EMA Manicaland provincial manager, Mr Kingstone Chitotombe said: “Pollution of water bodies, vegetation cover and the soil are the most noticeable effects of artisanal mining in Premier and Odzi.

 The large amounts of water needed to wash the ore often results in miners working close to water bodies, resulting in heavy contamination of the river as chemicals are discarded directly into Mutare and Odzi Rivers without any form of treatment.

“Apart from altering the aesthetic features of the land, the chemical and biological parameters of the rivers make it unfit for commercial and domestic purposes,” said Mr Chitotombe. Manica Post




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