Zimbabwe: Chinese Miner Spills Deadly Cyanide Into River, Sparking Environment Disaster

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent

A CHINESE owned gold mine near Karoi recently spilled cyanide-laced slimes into Angwa River killing, fish and putting the lives of villagers downstream in danger.

The river is rich in diverse aquatic life which include fish and crocodiles. It supports numerous communities along its course.

Last week, there was panic after reports from concerned villagers that their lives and that of fauna were under threat following the discharge of cyanide laden waste into the water body.

The incident happened at D-Troop Jiangxi Risheng Mine, where a slimes dam wall collapsed resulting in the discharge of slimes into Angwa river, leading to deaths of many fish.

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The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) provincial spokesperson, Munyaradzi Nhariswa confirmed the incident, which jerked the agency alongside the district civil protection unit into action.

An EMA report compiled following a visit to the scene corroborated the environmental disaster.

Reads the EMA report: "The cut-off trenches along the mine were no longer being maintained leading to overflow of slimes into the river. There was indeed a slow reaction by the team manning the slimes dam resulting in slimes contamination of the nearby river.

"The mine did not have an emergency spill response strategy, nor did it have the required ferrous Sulphate to decontaminate the affected area. The contaminated water led to poisoning of the fish species in the river. Even the resilient Catfish was not spared."

The Chinese miner was served with an Environmental Protection Order in terms Section 37 of the Environmental Management Act Chapter 20:27 to ensure continuous monitoring and decontamination, as well as engaging local communities downstream.

The miner was also ordered to submit progress reports on cleansing the river.

EMA last week took a preventative measure by decontaminating three points along the affected river using ferrous Sulphate.

Following reports of alleged environmental violations in the Chikuti gold-rich area, EMA swiftly responded and also conducted compliance inspections at neigbouring Morocco 7 and Take 25 mines, where violations in the handling of highly toxic cyanide were noted.

There was also discharge of mining effluent and lack of spillage contingency strategies.

EMA responded by ordering the closure of both mines which were operating without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates as required by law.

At Morocco 7, the owner had 100kgs of cyanide and the cyanidation tanks were constructed using plastic material, thereby exposing the surrounding communities to danger of contamination in case of an incidental spillage.

At Take 25 mine, three cattle died after straying into the mine's unsecured carbon rooms and ate cyanide.

EMA officials saw one of the dead cattle's carcass in the carbon rooms during last week's inspection.

The miner was operating two cyanidation tanks with an estimated capacity of 15 tonnes each at an unfenced area.

The mine was also operating without a proper facility for storage of hazardous substances.

Artmotion S.Africa

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