The effects of quarry mining being felt by locals in Hwange brings to the fore many questions of how well the assessment was conducted and what needs to happen next.
Hwange residents have been exposed to minor tremors especially those close to quarry mines. The trembling of the ground and shaking of the walls, that occurs during the blasting of stones worries nearby residents.
A recent visit by The Citizen Bulletin to David Qui Quarry exposed that, quarry mining is threatening the sustainability of the environment. Loss of natural landscape and biodiversity is already evident. Some residents think that the location of the mine is not strategic and a cause of concern.
Hwange has two quarry mining companies, David Qui Quarry and Dinson Colliery. But it is the former which has become a cause of concern. There has been a considerable increase in mining activities in Hwange. The current situation on quarry mining is being exacerbated by the expansion project of Zimbabwe Power Company and the rapid construction of residential areas under the Hwange Local Board. The two projects require a lot of quarry stones for construction.
Residents think that they are not safe. The Chinese run quarry companies are using heavy machinery to the detriment of the environment and the blasting process is been mentioned as a catalyst to speed the damage of the aged colliery buildings.
One of the residents, Michael Banda says residents around the quarry mine are bitter about the quarry operation because of its effects.
“A thorough research into the current environmental impacts of David Qui Quarry is necessary; through specific investigation and, assessing the efforts towards minimizing environmental impacts of their operations.”
The quarry operation involves the drilling of the granite outcrop and blasting of the outcrop using explosives. The drilling operation requires the use of heavy machines which emits gases that are harmful to the environment; this is peculiar to mining activities generally in Hwange. In addition, explosives are used to blast large rocks to aid the excavation of the area where granite is extracted.
The blasting operations of the quarry mine have been said to be producing air blast and vibrations that are affecting the people within the surrounding communities. Sources that spoke to this publication said blasting occurs infrequently but with great impact.
Scientific findings from various sources show that blasting operations are sometimes accompanied by the incomplete detonation of explosives which causes the release of some toxic gases to the atmosphere and hence pollute the environment.
Dust is one of the most visible, invasive, and potentially irritating impacts associated with quarry mining in Hwange, and its visibility is raising concerns about its impact on human health and the environment. Dust is occurring as fugitive dust from excavation, from haul roads, and from blasting.
Adding to the effects of blasting indigenous stone crushers and people passing by are complaining about the issue of flying rocks experienced when the rocks fly and travel beyond the expected and anticipated limit.
The most apparent impact of quarrying in Hwange by David Qui Quarry is a change in geomorphology and conversion of land use, with the associated change in the visual scene. This major impact has been accompanied by loss of habitat, noise, dust, vibrations, chemical spills, erosion, sedimentation, and dereliction of the mined site.
The Citizen Bulletin could not get a comment from David Qui quarry management as they could not speak English and there was no professional translator. However, one of the senior workers who preferred anonymity said the quarry operation was not in a good location.
“Controlling fugitive emissions commonly depends on good housekeeping practices rather than control systems. It’s unfortunate that we are not using techniques which include the use of water trucks, chemical applications on haul roads, and construction of windbreaks,” says Daniel*.
Hwange District Environmental Management Agency Environmental Education and Publicity Officer Mildred Matunga says citizens have a constitutional right to a clean and safe environment.
“Routine monitoring inspections and Quarterly Audits conducted by the Agency in the previous Quarter on the project did not pick any anomalies. However, it has to be noted that during the implementation of a project environmental issues may arise. We are therefore going to respond and honour up to these complaints and do further investigations,” says Matanga.
Simiso Mlevu, communications officer at the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, has misgivings.“If a proper environmental impact assessment was done by EMA, it should have shown that mining closer to human settlement is not ideal.”
Buttressing the point on quarry mining Mrs Mutanga says the Environment Impact Assessment process allows identifying and planning on mitigation on known and perceived negative impacts of a development project.
“However, as the project is implemented, there might be other unforeseen emerging issues. These are to be noted, reported and their impacts rectified. The Agency ensures compliance with the Environmental Management Plans through continuous monitoring of the operations of the mine/projects,” says Matunga.
This publication learnt that the primary source of noise from the extraction of aggregate and dimension stone is from earth-moving equipment, processing equipment, and blasting.
Focus Ncube, a manager on one of the warehouses nearby says he appreciates the investment, but, the location of the quarry mine is not strategic.
“Government agencies responsible for mining activities should revise its environmental management policy to ensure that the environmental effects of mining activities are reduced to the barest minimum,” says Ncube.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin