Monthly Archives: May 2013

Pacific churches call for more study of seabed mining

The Pacific Conference of Churches is again calling for an end to seabed mining.

ABC Radio Australia

The group of Christian churches says governments must ensure proper studies are carried out before any work starts.

The group’s general-secretary, the Reverend Francois Pihaatae says there hasn’t been enough consultation.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Reverend Francois Pihaatae, general-secretary, Pacific Conference of Churches

PIHAATAE: During our General Assembly in Honiara, there was a big concern expressed by all communities in the region, including the members of our own respective congregation. They have grown in both volume and intensity, because of the inadequacy and even total absence of appropriate consultation and dialogue with our communities on mining-related policy committee and this process is commonly expressed challenge across the region. So that’s why we, and in an environment where the voices and fear of our peoples are unheard, that’s why the Pacific Conference of Churches, must stand on behalf of our communities and people in the Pacific as our responsibility also as stewarts of God’s creation, that’s we speak out to all those who extractive industries or big powers who are trying to explore the ocean floor for rare metals and other mineral deposits to stop all the research done for seabed mining.

COUTTS: Now, is the Pacific Conference of Churches just against deep seabed mining or at this stage, you’re not necessarily against it, but you want more research before it proceeds?

PIHAATAE: Yeah. Because we have look at seabed mining as a new phenomena. IIt has not been trialed as work, and the Pacific Ocean, a central element to any and all Pacific cultures, spiritual and life in general is expected to be testing ground, eh, for this new frontier in extractive industry. So what we are looking at is the consequences,  especially in the ecological arena and the knowledge, I think is still unknown. Science remains silent on that issue.

COUTTS: Is it to late to make these kinds of objections, because Fiji’s already granted exploration licences, three of them. Solomon Islands and a number of other countries, Cook Islands have all expressed interest in deep seabed mining. So do you think the gates closed on argument now that it’s to late, because they’re all going ahead with exploration licences anyway?

PIHAATAE: I don’t think it’s to late. But as our mandate to stand by our communities and our people and we still hope and believe that there will be if a forum, a platform can be created for discussion and dialogue on these issues. Because if we speak against the seabed mining, it’s because we have a complete examples on the mining done the land base, like in Papua New Guinea’s, Solomon or Nauru, Fiji and Maohi Nui (French Polynesia). So that’s why we stand against the seabed mining and it is like repeating the same damages that have been done on the land  to the ocean, that’s why we strongly speak against the seabed mining.

COUTTS: Now the Pacific Conference of Churches had passed a resolution to leaders meeting in Honiara last month. Was it the call to halt the progress on deep seabed mining a unanimous vote at that conference?

PIHAATAE: Yeah, it’s a unanimous voices of the conference and then the question we ask ourself why this extractive industry or big powers are always using us like guinea pigs for experiments in everything and why not do it in they’re own ocean? And why we always? Because our main concern is about the whole Pacific rely on ocean resources, where we our livelihood depend on it. So if that had been damaged, where do you think we will get our foods as our resources as from the ocean?

COUTTS: Well, what’s the next step for the Pacific Council of Churches. Are you going to go to each government or are involved in, or planning to be involved in deep seabed mining and express your concerns directly to them?

PIHAATAE: Yeah, that will be our next step is to approach all the constituents in the Pacific and also the governments, civil societies and mining companies.

We have to have a dialogue before anything is restarted and also affect our people in this new phenomena of the new development option by our governments, given the licence expenses of our ocean floor. So I think there’s still a way where we need to sit down with our governments and other constituency to speak, to dialogue and how can we move forward and not impacting and damaging again the creation of God.

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United Arab Emirates excited by prospect of Pacific riches

Prospects of riches in the deep

David Crossland | The National (UAE)

Strewn across the Pacific seabed lies a vast treasure worth thousands of billions of euros.

And it is there for the taking. It just needs to be scooped up. No drilling required.

The greyish-black, potato-sized rocks, known as “nodules”, do not look very inspiring. But they are packed with minerals such as manganese, copper, nickel, cobalt, zinc and rare earths that are essential raw materials for the electronics industry and products such as solar cells.

The price of these metals has surged in recent years because global demand for them is growing and their supply from mining on land is becoming increasingly scarce. Demand for copper alone is projected to double over the next 20 years, with more than half of that rise coming from China and India.

The biggest undersea reserves are located in a 5 million square kilometre area known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the eastern Pacific.

The problem is the nodules lie at depths of up to 6,000 metres, where the water pressure is enormous.

It is pitch black and close to freezing down there and the seabed at such depths still holds as many mysteries to mankind, if not more, as the moon.

Only a tiny fraction of it has ever been explored. A UN official once likened the technical challenge of deep-sea mining to someone standing on top of a New York skyscraper on a windy day and trying to vacuum up marbles from the street far below with a long hose.

In fact, deep-sea mining is a tad more difficult than that. It will require large, remote-controlled machines capable of combing the seabed and collecting the rocks. Not to mention a system of transporting tonnes of rock to the surface.

“I think it may take up to 10 years before the collectors and their components have been so well developed and tested that they function reliably,” says Carsten Rühlemann of Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR).

“The machines have to be able to work for a long time because they would take about a week to lower to the seabed and a week to raise again,” says.

“So if they don’t function properly it will be prohibitively expensive to fix them. It will take a while for this to be commercially viable.”

But despite these difficulties, the prospect of profits and access to strategic raw materials is about to trigger an underwater gold rush.

Critics say the world is on the threshold of a new colonial era, a dash for precious minerals that could do irreversible damage to marine ecosystems.

The UN’s international seabed authority (ISA), which manages sea-bed mining, has so far granted 17 licences to national organisations and companies to prospect for minerals and more are about to follow.

Licence holders include companies from China, India, South Korea, Japan, eastern Europe and Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, as well as the Pacific island nations Kiribati and Tonga.

The potential for deep-sea mining is “arguably higher now than at any other time in history”, the ISA said in a study released in February.

The race for minerals could lead to international tensions. The United States, which has not been allocated an exploration area because it never signed the UN convention on the law of the sea, is unlikely to stand by while others exploit the riches of the oceans, especially since the most lucrative areas are close to the western coast of the US and Mexico.

The ISA, therefore, will have to rise to a huge challenge. So far, its role has largely been confined to handling bids for mineral exploration. Now, it has to work out how to licence, regulate and monitor the first real seabed-mining operations and how to share the proceeds.

It proposes to provide operators with “provisional mining licences” to make sure they demonstrate real mining and environmental competence before they are granted a full licence.

“Deep ocean mining is faced with a ‘Catch-22’ situation, whereby competence cannot be gained without actual mining at a commercial scale but, at the same time, mining should not be allowed without prior demonstration of competence,” the ISA says.

According to its study, the Clarion-Clipperton Zone may have more than 27 billion tonnes of nodules containing seven billion tonnes of manganese, 340 million tonnes of nickel, 290 million tonnes of copper and 78 million tonnes of cobalt.

How much of that is actually accessible is unknown, however.

“The technology hasn’t been properly developed for use on an industrial scale although the Koreans, Indians and Chinese have made progress with test collectors,” says Mr Rühlemann, the BGR’s expedition leader on a German-French research trip to the Pacific last year to assess the possible environmental impact of mining. South Korea has already undertaken 30 exploratory missions to its licence area in the Pacific and has set up its own test site for automatic deep-sea mining vehicles. Last year the Jiaolong, a Chinese manned deep-sea research submarine capable of navigating horizontally along the seabed, dived to a depth of more than 7,000 metres.

Aker Wirth, a German mining technology company, has drafted a design for a 17-metre long, 250-tonne machine resembling a combine harvester that would move across the seabed on several tracks.

At the front, cylindrical drums with little shovels would scoop up the nodules and feed them into a machine where they would be ground up. An enormous pump would bring them to the surface with the help of compressed air.

A major boost to deep-sea mining came from Papua New Guinea granting the first deep-seabed mining licence to the Nautilus Mining Company of Canada, in its territorial Bismarck Sea. The deal showed the private sector, and the banks supporting it, that deep-seabed mining is now commercially feasible.

Nautilus planned to mine for copper and gold on the seabed, not from nodules but from so-called “massive sulphide deposits” emitted from hydrothermal vents in the ocean floor where superheated water carrying metals from deep in the earth mixes with cold seawater to form metal-rich deposits.

However, that project, due to start production this year, is currently on hold due to a legal dispute with the government of Papua New Guinea.

Biologists argue seabed mining of nodules will harm the environment by churning up underwater clouds of sediment and displacing deep sea creatures. The operations could wipe out unique species before they had even been discovered, they say.

“Collecting manganese nodules will plough up a few thousand square kilometres per year. That would have similar consequences as cutting down rainforest,” says Sven Petersen, a scientist at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, northern Germany.

“It’s not as though no animals or plants live there afterwards. But they’re completely different species. And it’s exactly the same with deep-sea mining.” Jon Copley, a biologist from the University of Southampton, says it is a joint task to look after the oceans.

“I don’t think we own the deep ocean in the sense that we can do what we like with it. Instead, we share responsibility for its stewardship,” he told the BBC.

“We don’t have a good track record of achieving balance anywhere else – think of the buffalo and the rainforest – so the question is, can we get it right?”

Mr Rühlemann says the environmental damage from so-called suspension clouds churned up by the mining vehicles may be less severe than feared.

“I don’t think suspension clouds will drift far because the currents are very slow at such depths, just 3 to 4 centimetres per second,” he says.

“Besides, fine-grain sediments tend to clump together quickly and sink back down to the floor.

“The collectors will squash things but due to their wide chassis the pressure on the seabed would be kept to around 200 grams per square centimetre, which is about the same as a human being standing on the seabed.”

But the true impact won’t be known until large machines are used, he adds.

“You’d have to put a machine down there and monitor what actually happens when it moves. Nobody’s done that yet.”

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SOPAC: Don’t blame us for helping experimental seabed mining takeoff

Civil society crucial for deep sea mining

Roland Koroi | Fiji Broadcasting Corporation

The civil society will play a vital role in ensuring proper procedures are followed if deep sea mining does go ahead in the country.
Three mineral exploration licenses have been approved by government for the exploration of the sea bed within Fiji’s EEZ.
While this has been met with some opposition from the civil society, Director SOPAC, Michael Petterson says their input cannot be neglected.
“For me, minerals and mining is morally neutral, it’s just like money…money is morally neutral. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s what we do with it, that’s the key thing and that’s where people get involved. And that’s why civil society always has a place, to make sure, people are doing the things they’re meant to do when they occupy certain positions, including myself.”
SPC’s SOPAC’s proposal for a legislative and regulatory framework for deep sea mineral exploration and mining has received widespread criticism from NGO’s across the Pacific.
And with deep sea mining highly likely to happen here in the next few years, Petterson says the criticisms and questions are being leveled at the wrong people.
“I always hope that civil societies are there to ask awkward questions, but sometimes I feel like they’re directed at the wrong places because for example sometimes it is directed at SOPAC, yet SOPAC will not be the organization that mines, we will not even be the organization that makes any decisions on the mining. It’s going to be the government and the companies. So eventually, civil societies, I think, need to ask their hard questions to the main actors in this field.”
Petterson maintains that if mining is to go ahead, proper studies need to take place to ensure minimal disturbance to the marine environment.

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Should Africa be looking to PNG for advice on managing its mining sector?

Business Advisor calls on Africa to ensure effective resource management

Ghana Business News | GNA

Mr Peter Okwechime, a Business Adviser on Monday observed that Africa can boast of enough natural resources to create wealth and improve the livelihood of its people. He said the problem, however is lack of effective and efficient management.

Mr Okwechime, Business Adviser to the Government of Papua New Guinea said leaders need efficient and effective planning with appropriate consultation with the grassroots as well as modern innovation skills  to turn the fortunes of the continent around.

He made the observation in an interview with Ghana News Agency  at the on-going World Indigenous Network (WIN) conference.

The event being attended by about 1,500 delegates from more than 50 countries including Ghana is a platform to share stories, knowledge, cultural experiences and ideas on how to better manage ecosystems, protect the environment and support sustainable livelihoods.

WIN seeks to improve on the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of natural resources, improve social cohesion and increase economic opportunities and alleviate poverty.

Mr Okwechime said the continent is blessed with forest reserve and beautiful water bodies, which should be harnessed through effective management to generate revenue and reduce poverty.

He suggested a paradigm shift from a continent noted for conflict, mismanagement, selfishness and greed to a new Africa with hope, creativity, patriotism and love for nature.

“Africans especially the leaders must now think and work hard for the development of their … countries rather than their personal gains,” he said.

Mr Okwechime called on the African delegates not to keep to themselves but interact  with their colleagues to help conserve and manage natural resources and also strength the WIN.

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Nautilus: US$80mil spent on Solwara 1

The National aka The Loggers Times

NAUTILUS Minerals has spent about US$80 million on exploration programmes on the Solwara 1 project in Papua New Guinea, president and chief executive Mike Johnston says.
“The US$80 million (K172 million) was spent in 2005 up to January 2011,” he added.
Johnston said this during a media information session in Port Moresby yesterday, adding that Nautilus was committed to developing the high grade copper-gold project in the Bismark Sea.
Country manager Mel Togolo stressed that Nautilus Minerals remains committed to Papua New Guinea and would bring the Solwara 1 Project on stream.
He said: “Due to the depth of the activity beneath the sea, advanced technology will be used to extract metals from the sea floor.”
“The use of these remotely-operated seafloor production tools also signals an increased safety environment for the workers.
He said other advantages to seafloor resource production included:
1) High grades (7% copper);
2) Less ore is needed to provide the same amount of metal, thus leaving only a small footprint (minimal waste); and
3) No displacement or relocation of people and increased worker’s safety is assured,” Togolo explained.
Togolo said that while technology may be advanced, it is not entirely new as it has been adapted from equipment used in oil and gas as well as in the mining and dredging industries.
He reminded the media of the intensive environmental research that had been carried out to satisfy all environmental requirements both by the PNG Government and international organisations.
“We have an environment permit and we have conducted very vigorous intensive environmental studies and a thorough environmental impact assessment and have taken the above and beyond approach to ensure that all requirements have been met,” Togolo said.
“Extracting minerals from the seafloor would occur at depths of 1600m.
“Fish such as tuna and any other edible sea life exist within the top 400m water depth and would not be harmed.
“Nautilus as a responsible corporate company has made every effort  to ensure that any impact would be minimised.
“Nautilus has made many commitments and these include using biodegradable oils in all subsea equipment, and a fully enclosed system for transporting ore up to the production support vessel and Nautilus is working on a “no tailings” solution for the concentrator.

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Ramu mine supporter promoting marine waste dumping of toxic tailings

An alternative: Deep-sea tailings placement

Tracy Shimmield | Australian Mining

Deep-sea mine tailings placement (DSTP) is an alternative to land-based mine-waste disposal, whereby mineral ore is converted into slurry and transported via a pipeline to processing plants located at the coast, with the resultant waste being discharged into very deep water offshore. Specific topographical and hydrodynamic conditions must exist if the mine tailings are to sink to the seabed and remain there.

Although not always appropriate, when compared to the capital and operational costs of on-land impoundments, this type of tailings disposal can be very economical. DSTP is therefore gaining favour in the light of catastrophic dam failures and in the face of land-availability, land-use value and land-ownership disputes, which are prevalent in some countries.

The DSTP method
Submarine tailings disposal (STD) has been utilised at over 13 coastal mining sites around the world to date (some have now ceased operations). However, most of these have involved disposal into shallow or coastal waters, resulting in severe environmental damage and tarnishing the reputation of STD as environmentally viable waste management option.  ‘Deep’ STP should be distinguished by the discharge of tailings slurry into deeper waters, – well below the mixed layer and the reach of sunlight in the water column (the so-called ‘euphotic zone’), with tailings settling below a depth of 1000m or more.

Mines that have, or are still utilising DSTP include Island Copper and Kitsault Mines in Canada, Black Angel in Greenland, Cayeli Bakir in Turkey, Batu Hijau in Indonesia, and Misima, Lihir and Ramu mines in Papua New Guinea.

If DSTP methodology is engineered correctly, tailings slurry should form a turbidity current which flows coherently, with minimal dispersion, until it reaches the edge of a steepening, or more ideally an underwater ‘drop-off’. From here, the mixture continues in a gravity-assisted descent along the seafloor for as long as it remains denser than the surrounding water. The slope of the seabed must be steep enough to maintain the flow of tailings down the slope, allowing the tailings to move to deeper areas rather than accumulating at the outfall site. As the tailings slurry descends, it becomes diluted and dissipates with increasing distance from the pipeline due to entrainment of seawater and frictional losses.

For DSTP to be successful there should be very little or no risk at the deposition site of hazardous amounts of tailings ‘upwelling’ back into shallow waters, where toxic components may enter the food chain. For this reason, feasibility studies and site selection require a detailed knowledge of both the seafloor topography and the regional hydrography. The need for robust environmental baselines to be conducted early, as part of feasibility studies is of paramount importance to both risk-assessment and site-selection exercises, which must be conducted by mining companies as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process.

Best practice for DSTP
Best practice in the application of DSTP centers on appropriate site-selection for tailings discharge. Consideration of the following environmental attributes can help to de-risk the process of deep-sea tailings placement for mines where DSTP is a viable option:

  • Accessibility to the coast: tailings can be piped overland providing the topography is suitable (in some instances tailings are piped up to 150km).
  • Suitable bathymetry and physical oceanography: steep-sided submarine slopes, canyons, or naturally-excised deep-water channels near to the coast.
  • The pipeline discharge depth: should be greater than the maximum depth of the surface mixed layer, euphotic zone, and the upwelling zone to maximise stable deposition on the seafloor.
  • Absence of upwelling or seasonal overturning: to prevent tailings re-suspension into surface waters.
  • Siting in a low energy environment: to reduce the likelihood of pipe breaks and reduce the formation of subsurface tailings plumes and re-suspension of deposited tailings.
  • Deep water receiving environment: should be a soft bottom depositional area.
  • Low productivity environment: to reduce the potential impact on marine resources, such as fisheries/shellfish.

Given the above criteria, suitable sites for DSTP exist principally on oceanic islands and archipelagos where very deep water occurs close to shore, such as mine sites in Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. However, suitable sites also exist off several mainland coastlines worldwide, including Australia.

International Protocol and National Policy Development
Australia regulates the disposal of waste at sea under the Environment Protection Act 1981 (the Sea Dumping Act) by:

  • Prohibiting ocean disposal of waste considered too harmful to be released in the marine environment, and
  • Regulating permitted waste disposal to ensure environmental impacts are minimised.

The Sea Dumping Act also fulfils Australia’s international obligations under the London Convention and Protocol: The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Waste and Other Matter, 1972 (London Convention) and its updated version, the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Waste and Other Matter, (London Protocol) are the primary international instruments to protect the world’s oceans from pollution. There are currently 42 parties to the London Protocol. This includes Australia, New Zealand and in 2012 the Philippines, but not yet Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (PNG is a signatory of the London Convention however).

Unlike the London Convention, which lists materials that may not be dumped, the London Protocol prohibits all dumping, except for certain wastes named on a “reverse list”.

The Protocol does allow for marine disposal of ‘inert, inorganic geological material,’ but this does not include mine waste, as tailings have not been shown to be ‘inert’.

Technically however, neither the London Convention nor Protocol deals with discharges from land, only with ‘dumping’ at sea.

For this reason, government authorities must themselves evaluate tailings management alternatives, setting-out the terms of any permits to discharge tailings into the marine environment. Since environmental legislation, regulations, and permitting processes vary from country to country, this means that different decision-making processes, reviewing different levels of scientific evidence exist across the permitting process worldwide.

SRSL has undertaken a number of environmental impact studies of DSTP, which include Misima (now closed) and Lihir (operational) mines in Papua New Guinea (2007-2010), as well as several environmental baseline surveys of Basamuk (2008-2012), the site of the now operational Ramu Nickel mine processing plant.

The aim of these projects has been to investigate the effects of DSTP in a bid to sustain PNG’s economic performance through mineral production and exports, alleviate poverty, increase employment opportunities and mitigate mine-induced environmental impacts.

In so doing, SRSL was funded by the European Commission (8th European Development Fund, 2007-2010) to produce ‘best-practice’ guidelines for DSTP on behalf of the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Mineral Resource Authority in PNG. The general guidelines that were produced by SRSL in 2010 have since been accepted by the PNG government and are presently being included as regulation within PNG’s legislation. The International Marine Organisation (IMO) and the Scientific Group of the London Protocol have also ‘acknowledged’ the guidelines.

Environmental Impacts and Site-Specific Guidelines
The potential environmental impacts of DSTP are irrefutably significant but at the same time extremely site-dependent; the result of complex and interacting biogeochemical, ecological, topographical and oceanographic conditions. Under some of these conditions, DSTP may be the waste management option with the least impact out of several alternative tailings placement strategies available. In other situations DSTP would be environmentally irresponsible. For example, DSTP operations in areas experiencing oceanographic upwelling have the potential to impact shallow coastal waters, reefs and fisheries.

As with land-based tailings storage, the principal environmental impact of deep-sea tailings discharge is the alteration of the physical environment at the location where the tailings are deposited (smothering organisms residing within the trajectory of the tailings density plume and inhabiting the final deposition area). In the deep sea, secondary effects relate to the toxicity of metals and process chemicals for deep-sea organisms, and the progressive concentration of these toxins up food-chain. For this reason, chemical and biological characterisation of sample mine tailings and their potential impacts on water, sediment quality, biological resources and ecosystems are fundamental aspects of the environmental impact assessment process for DSTP.

Independent scientific studies of current DSTP practices play an important role in supporting regulatory authorities in the production of site-specific guidelines, to be imposed upon DSTP operations at the time of permitting.  In recent years, SRSL has authored independent site-specific guidelines relating to a number of mines. These guidelines have enabled regulatory bodies to tailor their permitting processes to the unique character of a proposed site and its specific marine environment, through stipulating the most relevant Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) requirements.

As DSTP continues to be practiced, a growing body of scientific knowledge on the physical and biogeochemical effects of tailings in the marine environment is emerging. Several long-term monitoring studies, including those undertaken by SRSL, reveal recolonisation of mine tailings deposits on the ocean floor in relatively short timescales after mine closure (one to ten years, depending upon local conditions). Full ‘recovery’ however, has not been demonstrated, even after 10 years. This is largely due to different species and community structures in re-colonised areas compared to un-impacted sites.

Marine scientists at SRSL continue to analyse the substantial data set resulting from surveys conducted in PNG and are set to publish new findings later this year addressing long-term environmental impacts of DSTP; information which is expected to be of significant interest to the mining industry.

Conclusions
The fundamental objective of any waste management strategy should be the safe, stable, and economical storage of tailings, while presenting negligible public health, safety and social impacts, and minimal environmental damage.

The case for DSTP as a disposal option can only be justified following full analysis and risk-assessment of all disposal options available. Nevertheless, greater awareness of potential environmental impacts and better informed site-selection by mining companies can help reduce risk. Combining this best practice approach with implementation of site-specific guidelines by regulatory authorities should drive improvements in DSTP standards worldwide.

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Zimbabwe: Chinese companies ignore mining laws

Midlands Correspondent | Chronicle

MOST Chinese companies involved in mining activities are violating the country’s mining laws and are causing severe land degradation with no due punishment imposed on them, an official has said.

Responding to questions from journalists after touring some areas in Kwekwe and Mberengwa where either chrome or gold mining activities were taking place on Monday, the Environmental management Agency Board chairman, Professor Sheunesu Mpepereki said the board would soon summon some of the Chinese mining companies especially those operating in Mberengwa for breaching environmental laws willy-nilly.

He said most of them were operating without carrying out the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures.

“What these Chinese companies, especially those in Zvishavane and Mberengwa, are doing, is a direct violation of the provisions of environment management procedures. They are causing severe land degradation and are conducting their mining operations without following the required and recommended procedures like the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is mandatory before any mining activity takes place,” he said.

Prof Mpepereki said the Chinese companies, especially those mining chrome in Mberengwa’s Neta area, would be summoned before the EMA board for causing severe land degradation in local villagers’ fields.

He also blamed the local villagers for leasing their pieces of land to the Chinese, who were now wreaking havoc in the area.

“As the EMA board, we are saddened by the way most of the Chinese are conducting their chrome mining activities in total disregard of the country’s laws and provisions. These people (Chinese) are cheating hunger stricken villagers in Mberengwa to surrender their land by entering into dubious agreements. The villagers are being cheated into selling their land in the manner our ancestors were tricked into signing the Rudd Concession that led to them surrendering the country to the British,” he said.

Prof Mpepereki said Mberengwa villagers, who sold their land to the Chinese, should ignore their lease agreements and instead come up with environmental management committees at ward level.

He said the committees would work closely together with EMA officials in protecting their pieces of land.

“The villagers should not sell their land to these miners, who are going around luring them with cash. This has caused severe land degradation and as EMA we will enlist the services of the police to effect arrest on these Chinese,” said Prof Mpepereki.

While most villagers are busy cultivating their fields following the heavy rains that pounded most parts of the country, the situation is different in Mberengwa’s Neta area. The villagers in Neta have no fields to cultivate after they sold their pieces of land to the Chinese, who are carrying out chrome-mining operations in the area.

A tour of the fields in Mberengwa by the EMA board proved that the fields were turned into huge gullies, as the Chinese used earth moving machines to mine chrome. Responding to questions from members of the EMA board during a tour of the area on Monday, the villagers said they were forced to sell their land to the Chinese owing to severe drought that had affected the area in the past five years.

“I decided to sell my piece of land for $1 000 to the Chinese, who wanted to carry out chrome mining activities in the area because I was facing starvation. I am a widow and could not refuse the cash when I was approached,” said one elderly woman, who only identified herself as Mrs Magura.

Another villager, Mr Robert Maphosa said they were duped by the Chinese to “sell” their pieces of land after being convinced that they were only working for a short period of time on their fields.

“The Chinese told us that they would rehabilitate our fields soon after extracting chrome in our fields, but to our surprise, they have since moved to other areas, leaving huge gullies in our fields. The situation is so bad to the extent that we cannot cultivate our land. We have no land to cultivate as we speak and it is painful when it is raining like this,” he said.

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