The High court yesterday delayed passing a judgment on an urgent appeal filed by Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) to stop coal mining in Hwange National Park, claiming that it had not finished writing.
In a communique ZELA expressed concern over the delays in releasing judgment for such an urgent appeal, filed together with Fedelis Chima, a Hwange local resident, to stop Chinese miners from mining coal in the park.
The urgent appeal was filed on September 6 following public outcry over the mining developments which pose an acute risk of irreversible ecological degradation to a national park with symbolic significance.
“The court has indicated that it has not yet finished writing the judgment and most probably it will be ready tomorrow by 2pm.
“This has a chilling effect on the urgency of the matter considering that we filed the case on the 6th of September,” said ZELA in an update.
State-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and Zhongxin Mining Group Tongmao Coal Company which has already started operations, Minister of Mines and Mineral Development and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) are the four respondents.
“The issuance of the special grant in February 2019 before environmental impact assessment is in violation of section 97 of the Environmental Management Act,” ZELA and Chima argued.
Hwange National park is home to scores of mammal species, of which 19 are large herbivores and eight large carnivores, and 400 bird species and an elephant population of about 44,000m being the most notable of the species.
There has been a public outcry from environmentalists, civil society organisations and the community over the licensing of a coal miner inside the Hwange National Park as a continuation of the catastrophic decisions by government.
ZELA argues the Mines and Minerals Development erred in awarding the special grant and violated the country’s laws by failing to first consult the Ministry of Environment, Climate change, Tourism and Hospitality, for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate.
“The upending of the legislative process entailed failure to provide interested and or affected persons an opportunity to participate in the administrative decision making. As a result the decision makers failed to avail themselves of the benefit of all the relevant factors and considerations.
“Authorisation of, and commencement of, mining in a protected national park is in breach of the constitutional duty on all respondents to prevent ecological degradation and promote conservation in terms of section 73(b) of the constitution of Zimbabwe,” reads part of the application.
There are fears that mining activities will disturb the ecosystem and drive animals to other parts of the Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area – namely Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Angola. This would negatively affect the tourism sector and environment
Meanwhile government has responded by banning all mining activities in national parks following a public backlash over its decisions to grant the mining licenses in the first place, while the Chinese embassy has accepted government’s decision.