The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development has moved in to explain the gazetting of an Exclusive Prospecting Order (EPO) being sought to drill oil in the wildlife infested Mana Pools area after being grilled in Parliament.
Shalom Mining applied for a prospecting licence in the northern Mana Pools National Park, a tourist magnet near the Zambian border, according to a notice published in the Government Gazette.
“It is hereby notified, that in terms of section 87 (4) of the Mines and Minerals Act, that Shalom Mining Corporation has applied to the Mining Affairs Board for an exclusive prospecting order, over an area described in the schedule, in the Mashonaland West mining district,” reads the Government Gazette of April 28.
“The applicant intends to prospect for petroleum oil and gas within the area which has been reserved against prospecting pending determination of this application. Prospecting authority is sought upon registered base mineral blocks within the reservation.”
Answering questions, Ministry of Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister, Polite Kambamura said; “Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir. The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development received an application from the said company. As a matter of procedure when we receive those applications, they go through the Mining Affairs Board.
“Then they are gazetted for public opinion and for the public to also object if they are not in favour of the application, that is the procedure.”
The Deputy Minister went said after the gazetting is when the Mining Affairs Board would now sit to deliberate on whether to issue the EPO or not. “So that EPO has not been issued and it is just a matter of procedure that is happening that we put that application in the Gazette. I thank you,” he said
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary aAffairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi weighed in and said the country does not allow mining activities in areas like those.
“The Government does not issue any exploration licences on Heritage sites in order to preserve them, thus there is no policy on mining in those areas,” Ziyambi Ziyambi said.
However, some parliamentarians asked what then happened to the EPO if the said site was not to be drilled.
“What happened on the application is that it is not fully covering the protected area but it is overlapping the protected area. In the area that is not protected, we were allowed to issue an EPO; that is why we allowed it to sail through.
“Then when it comes back to the Mining Affairs Board is when they will now consider to say, we cannot issue on this protected portion but on this portion that is open. We are allowing that process to go through then afterwards we consider the application,” Kambamura added.
Currently, before Parliament is the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill and some say that Bill actually allows invasion of those protected sites including cemeteries and homes.
Rights lawyer, Tendai Saizi said; “We need policy clarification and a statement that the ministry cannot invade and allocate mining rights to protected areas including national parks. If not done I believe we can all kiss our parks and homes goodbye.”
Mana Pools, which has been designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), lies on the southern bank of the Zambezi River that serves as the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The site covers 676,600 hectares spanning the Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari areas home to a remarkable concentration of wild animals, including elephants, buffalo, leopards and cheetahs.