Illegal hammer mills and cyanidation are a wicked problem in Penhalonga

by Tinashe Muzama and Rutendo

The establishment of illegal gold hammer mills(HMS) and cyanidation sites along river streams flowing along residential areas of Penhalonga in Manicaland and surrounding farming communities is a cause for concern. Residents of Penhalonga and representatives of community based organizations (CBOs) in Mutasa, Zimbabwe raised concerns on the establishment of illegal gold hammer mills and cyanidation sites along river streams flowing along residential areas of Penhalonga and surrounding farming communities. It has been observed that fast distribution of toxic chemicals in Tsambe river is affecting the residents in this time of water rationing because the rivers are the only alternative source of water in the are. A total of 129 hammer mills and 6 cyanidation sites were illegally processing gold at 6 different locations in the communities thus violating S.I 258 of 2018 Environmental Management (Control of Alluvial Mining) (Ammendment) Regulations which denounces the processing plants, washing plants ,slime dams, settling ponds, stock piles that are to be constructed at least 500m from the river bank of any water course.

The grave implications of cyanidation has reached alarming levels to such an extent that, it is sold in 300ml bottles in the community. Cyanide is leaking yet the ferax chemical is scarce which is used to kill it. The danger of cyanide is that, the soil that is used is contaminated yet when it rains,the soil will be washed away into the river. Cyanide weakens any other mineral that surrounds the gold.

Furthermore there are no registered hammer mills in Penhalonga.The management has unregistered hammer mills to such an extent that they do not publicize because the strategic apex is supporting the illegal activities.

The moment one puts a mill, its evident cyanide/mercury andexplosives are there. Cyanide or mercury is therefore disposed in rivers or waters. Most importantly some companies operating in Penhalonga have cyanidation but the plants leak water. There are no licenses on this activity. This entails that no clean water, only mercury water is present.Some of the milling sites are unprotected, thus exposing livestock and people to toxic chemicals.

Meanwhile residents would like to thank the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the stakeholders for responding to the concerns of residents.

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