GOVERNMENT is crafting a new law to ban the owning of a metal detector without a licence, a move that has been welcomed as this will stem land degradation and veld fires reportedly caused by illegal gold miners.
Two weeks ago, 10 men were burnt to death in Esigodini while trying to fight a veld fire at Red Rose Farm.
The veld fire is alleged to have been started by illegal miners who clear land to use metal detectors in search of the precious metal.
According to the Environment Management Agency, veld fires in Zimbabwe have so far killed 18 people.
The fire season started on July 31 and ends on November 30.
The increase in deaths can be attributed to the upsurge in fire incidences as by last week Thursday, there were 5 386 recorded fires that destroyed 1 244 227,34 hectares, which is an increase of 58,6 percent compared to the same period last year.
During a memorial service at the farm where 10 lives were lost in Esigodini on Friday last week, the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Nqobizitha Ndlovu said owning metal detectors will soon be illegal if one does not have a licence.
“We met on Wednesday with the different arms of Government such as the CPU, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Mines. It was resolved that owning a metal detector should be licensed by the Ministry of Mines.
It’ll be illegal to own one without a mining licence,” said Minister Ndlovu.
The 10 men were recently laid to rest at their respective rural homes.
Following the remarks by Minister Ndlovu, Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) chief executive officer Mr Wellington Takavarasha said it is important for the sector to be formalised.
“We have been lamenting about formalisation of the industry because this will help protect particular areas where mining activities happen and also ensure there’s no haphazard mining.
“We need to know who is in a particular area and this is only possible when the industry is formalised,” said Mr Takavarasha.
He said metal detectors are used mostly for alluvial mining and most of those using detectors operate at night to avoid arrest.
Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAMWU) secretary-general Mr Justice Chinhema said there is a need to regularise the mining sector.
“We are in agreement with the Government on the need to regulate artisanal miners. We have seen so many bad things happening, pits have been created everywhere including farming areas,” said Mr Chinhema.
He said the Esigodini fire was probably started by artisanal miners as they cleared the land for detectors.
“As ZDAMWU we have been calling for formalisation of all mining activities in order to protect the environment,” said Mr Chinhema.
He said although the organisation has been engaging small-scale miners, more can be done.
“We on our side are engaging the artisanal miners through education and training on safe mining and ways to protect the environment. Government on its part should formalise all the mining activities so that miners are made accountable for their activities,” said Mr Chinhema.