TARKA FOREST, Zimbabwe (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Thousands of unemployed Zimbabweans have turned to illegal gold panning in a bid to survive the country’s deteriorating economy, leaving a trail of destruction that has alarmed farmers, timber plantation owners and the country’s environmental authorities.
Peasant miners have set up makeshift mines on farmland and timber plantations in the country’s eastern provinces, which border Mozambique where gold fetches a higher price. Deep tunnels have been dug beneath roads, railways and buildings in the Kwekwe area of the Midlands province. In some parts of Manicaland province, waterways have been diverted and roads destroyed.
With more illegal miners likely to exploit the area as the economy continues to slump, and the state placing responsibility to act on landowners, farmers are fearful of irreversible damage to their land, and the risk of losing their livelihoods.
“Kwekwe is under siege from illegal miners and some of these miners are very violent. We don’t know what to do,” resident Jonas Dube told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Simon Simango, an illegal gold miner in Chimanimani, Manicaland province, acknowledged that the excavations were having a negative impact on the environment. But many workers had run out of options, he said.
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