Wednesday 31 August 2022


“Welcome to Scenic Shurugwi”

This is an old inscription on a billboard that one sees on approaching Shurugwi from Gweru.

A first timer might anticipate pleasing views of natural features along Boterekwa Road —but this is not the case —the old billboards have been overtaken by events.

There is no longer a “scenic Shurugwi” but an environmental disaster in the making at the hands of artisanal small-scale miners (ASM) as well as big mining companies.

Their mining activities are not in harmony with nature; mountains are being eaten away using heavy machinery.

Shurugwi district is endowed with an array of natural resources and is home to Boterekwa (meandering) Road, a winding road that passes through mountains.

It is very similar to the pass near Makhado (Louis Trichardt) in South Africa that was constructed by the same Italian firm.

The natural scenic state of freshwater streams and diverse plant and bird species have also been affected by water pollution and land degradation as trees and vegetation in the valley are now covered by heaps of soil dug up in the process of gold mining.

The Boterekwa area is now famous for abandoned pits that pose a deadly threat to both humans and livestock.

The demand for gold and chrome has spurred a rush for the minerals by both local and foreign companies.

Locals are venturing into partnerships with foreign companies to set up operations to mine the sought-after minerals.

The foreign companies after entering the partnerships with the owners of the land – mainly villagers – are tasked with bringing the mining equipment while the owners of the claim are rewarded in the form of top of the range vehicles and some money.

As a result of the illegal mining in the area, Boterekwa has suffered serious degradation.

Underground tunnels pose a serious risk to locals, with many believed to have been dug beneath the main roads.

Illegal gold panning activities are taking a toll on the flora and fauna in the scenic district of Shurugwi, destroying the latent tourism the district is endowed with.

The land degradation caused by the miners is not only worsening the state of the roads.

Despite police attempts to clamp down on the illegal activity, there are still many miners working in the area.

Environmental degradation has scaled new heights since the coming in of big players who bring state of the art machinery embarking on illegal mining activities in the picturesque mountain range.

Some of the companies are allegedly awarded EIA certificates for shaft mining but are surprisingly engaged in opencast mining leading to deforestation and the siltation of rivers.

Mr Thomas Siziba of Shurugwi said it was unfortunate that the love of money was leading to an environmental disaster

“There is a valley in Boterekwa that was famous for freshwater streams and various plant species which used to attract a large number of tourists every year, but today the land has been turned up-side-down by miners and the water is polluted,” he said.

Chief Nhema said there is need for Government to rein in some of the companies that are destroying the environment at Boterekwa and Shurugwi.

“An environmental disaster is looming at Boterekwa and Shurugwi at large because of the mining taking place be it from artisanal and small to medium-scale miners to the big mines. If you walk through Boterekwa you will cry because all the flora and fauna is gone. There are heavy machines (bulldozers and front end loaders) eating away the mountains and soon there won’t be trees or rivers flowing in Boterekwa,” he said.

Midlands Province mining director Engineer Tariro Ndlovu said some companies had been forced to shut down because of illegal mining operations.

“Mining should be done but the miners must observe the need to work in harmony with nature. We can’t have a trail of disaster emanating from illegal mining activities,” he said.

The Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Nqobizitha Ndlovu said to curb illegal mining and environment disaster in Shurugwi and other areas, there shall be strict enforcement of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) by Environmental Management Agency (EMA) in the interest of protecting the environment while also promoting economic growth in line with National Development Strategy (NDS1) aspirations. Chronicle


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