Chinhoyi – Gold mining continues to be one of the last pillars of hope for many young families in Makonde. Able bodied men and women are clearly storming all the gold rush rumored areas despite the illegalities involved.
Illegal gold panning and unregulated artisanal mining in the gold rushes of Mash-West since 2019 continue to pose environmental threats due to the environmental degradation.
During the rainy season, poorly mechanized gold hustlers (makorokoza) are unable to continue operations of mining underground due to the risk of collapsing rocks. Alternatively, they turn to river banks where they pan for alluvial gold.
In worst cases scenarios some of the gold panning happening along the banks of Hunyani River in Makonde are also posing a threat to the water body which is the main source for Chinhoyi town.
This reporter conducted an investigation of illegal gold mining along the Hunyani River banks adjacent to Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) since the Eldorado gold rush of 2019.
As shown in pictures, there is evidence of alluvial gold mining along Hunyani river banks near the Chinhoyi University Hotel. In some serious cases, there are pits and tunnels stretching up to hundred of meters underground.
The abandoned mining pits along the open fields and banks of Hunyai River are dangerous death traps. The shafts are sometimes difficult to notice, some of the shafts are only wide as a man can fit.
Community Residents Associations, one group being (Chinhoyi Talk) have raised concern over the abandoned pits that endanger human life. Communities living in the outskirts of the target area use the mine fields as a short cut to their homes.
Martin, One of the gold panners along Hunyani River worries about his wife’s and small children’s safety when crossing the area. It was an emotional dilemma for Martin that he realized how the work he was doing was also a danger to his family.
“I am, very worried about the safety of my family when crossing here. The open shafts are death traps which can swallow a human to death,” Martin lamented. [Translated from Shona to English]
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has underscored possible environmental degradation along the Hunyani River banks due to alluvial mining.
During this investigation, we alerted the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) on the problems whilst seeking comment from them.
EMA’s Mashonaland –West Information and Publicity department updated ZNCJ.ORG with confirmation of environmental degradation.
“There is serious environmental degradation going on the area…Our investigation revealed that some of the holes are more than 50 meters deep with tunnels stretching sideways. Some of the tunnels have reached the water table and abandoned.”
Residents further reported the problem of open defecation in the area. For the record, this reporter experienced the filth of open defecation and the compromised health standards of the mine fields.
The feces are washed down the river, exposing the river to pollution of all sorts. Unfortunately, downstream communities use the water for domestic purposes which expose them to health risks.
The Residents group, (Chinhoyi Talk) could notidentify the culprits . It led to speculation that throngs of gold Panners spend more than 18 hours a day at the site and some of them are camping in the area without toilet systems.
One of the illegal gold panners, an unemployed father of three who decided to remain anonymous revealed that they are aware of the environmental crimes they are committing but poverty is the driving force.
“Every day I come to this place, I know I am committing a crime. Poverty is what drives me to this extent,” said the father of three. [Translated from Shona to English]
After speaking to the miners, This reporter could understand that most of them are desperate to feed their families and secure education for their children. The scourge of unemployment is driving the youth to risk their lives in search for a better life.
Danford (39) grew up in a family of gold Panners where his parents provided for all their family needs through gold panning. At the age of 8, he learned how to extract alluvial gold.
By the age of 13, Danford dropped out of school to help his parents panning the gold. At age 17 he was married and fathered a child with a 15 year old girl.
Danford’s story is one of being born in those circumstances and gold panning is all he knows. As far as he is concerned, gold panning is not crime, for that is all he knows.
“I was born in this situation and gold mining is the only way I know to survive…I am not committing a crime or harming anyone.”