ILLEGAL gold mining in an ecologically sensitive region of Zimbabwe has spiked and has the cooperation of the people employed to protect the area, said Reuters in a report.
According to the newswire, rangers employed by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) to protect the Chimanimani National Park in eastern Zimbabwe collect gold from the miners in return for payment in US dollars.
The economic pressure brought about by the advance of Covid-19 is thought to be behind the increase and comes despite a ban on riverine and riverbed mining by the Zimbabwean government in September.
“The waters are being polluted; the biodiversity poisoned; endemic plants dug up (and) trampled; animals and birds poached; (and) litter strewn all over the mountains,” Julia Pierini, head of BirdLife Zimbabwe, a non-profit organisation, told Reuters.
“For the past couple of years, we have been seeing illegal gold miners in the mountains, but suddenly during lockdown we started to see hundreds of them,” said Collen Sibanda, vice chairman of the Chimanimani Tourist Association (CTA).
“Zimparks is recruiting people. They are organising these syndicates.”
“I thought it was legal because we were working with the rangers,” said one person who was part of the illegal mining until chased away by military drafted in to clear the area.
“We were given a target, we would sell about 40 grams of gold per day,” he said. Rangers would collect the gold in return for payment in US dollars.