Chinese Miner Dumps Deadly Cyanide Into River, Causing Environmental Disaster
By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent
A CHINESE-owned gold mine near Karoi recently spilled sludge containing cyanide into the Angwa River, killing, fishing and putting the lives of villagers downstream at risk.
The river is rich in diverse aquatic life which includes fish and crocodiles. He supports many communities along his journey.
Panic erupted last week after reports from worried villagers that their lives and those of wildlife were at risk following the dumping of cyanide-laden waste into the body of water.
The incident happened at the D-Troop Jiangxi Risheng mine, where a sludge dam wall collapsed causing sludge to spill into the Angwa River, killing many fish.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) provincial spokesperson Munyaradzi Nhariswa confirmed the incident, which prompted the agency alongside the district’s civil protection unit into action.
An EMA report written following a site visit corroborated the environmental disaster.
Reads the EMA report: “The cut-off trenches along the mine were no longer maintained, resulting in an overflow of sludge into the river. There was indeed a slow reaction from the team handling the sludge dam, which resulted in contamination by sludge from the nearby river.
“The mine did not have an emergency spill response strategy, nor the ferrous sulphate needed to decontaminate the affected area. The contaminated water has led to the poisoning of the fish species in the river. Even the resilient catfish were not spared.
The Chinese miner was issued an environmental protection order under Section 37 of the Environmental Management Act, Chapter 20:27, to ensure continuous monitoring and decontamination, as well as to involve the local communities downstream.
The miner was also ordered to submit river cleanup progress reports.
Last week, the EMA took preventive action by decontaminating three points along the affected river using ferrous sulphate.
Following reports of alleged environmental violations in the Chikuti gold zone, the EMA quickly responded and also conducted compliance inspections at neighboring mines Morocco 7 and Take 25, where violations in the handling of cyanide highly toxic were observed.
There was also the discharge of mine effluent and the lack of contingency strategies in the event of a spill.
The EMA responded by ordering the closure of the two mines which were operating without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates, as required by law.
In Morocco 7, the owner had 100 kg of cyanide and the cyanidation tanks were made of plastic material, thus exposing the surrounding communities to the danger of contamination in the event of an accidental spill.
At the Take 25 mine, three cattle died after straying into the mine’s unsecured carbon rooms and eating cyanide.
EMA officials saw one of the dead cattle carcasses in the carbon rooms during last week’s inspection.
The miner operated two cyanide tanks with an estimated capacity of 15 tonnes each in an unfenced area.
The mine was also operating without a proper facility for the storage of hazardous substances.