Why Is China Criticizing Zimbabwe’s Mining Policies For Prioritizing Its People

China Ambassador to Zimbabwe Guw Shaochun
Credit: New Zimbabwe

The Chinese Embassy in Harare has publicly admonished President Mnangagwa’s administration to put Zimbabwe citizens first in its new mining policies.

According to New Zimbabwe, China Commended Zimbabwe’s government for the new measures put in place to ban all mining activities in national parks and reiterated the need for Harare to craft laws that promote transparency in the lucrative mining sector. A statement by the Chinese Embassy in Harare stated that “We reiterate that we support Zimbabwe to use mining proceeds to develop itself and improve the lives of its people. We further propose Zimbabwe to promulgate and implement laws and regulations to increase corporate transparency in the mining area and promote the sustainable growth of businesses.”

The statement further said, “under such a mechanism, all mining enterprises shall be required to share the public information about their investments, cost, output, and profit-sharing arrangements. It is very clear and unchallengeable that Zimbabwe’s resources belong to Zimbabweans.”  

The Backlash And The Ban 

Earlier this month, Zimbabwe was widely hailed for heeding to environmental concerns and halting licenses given to Chinese companies to mine coal in Hwange, the country’s biggest national park. The alleged concessions granted to the Chinese companies sparked stern resistance by local conservationist groups who cited different potential biodiversity and economic threats that will arise from such a move. Conservationists’ campaigns using the hashtag “SaveHwangeNationalPar” surfaced on social media for weeks. The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association also applied to the High Court to stop the planned mining. The group argued that “Chinese mining inside Hwange National Park risked permanent damage to the ecology.” 

Giving further details about the mining concession, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Mines, Winston Chitando, stated that “the mining concession was granted in 2015 to ZMDC (Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation), who have held that mining concession since then…They haven’t done much work on the concession and they proceeded to get a partner to undertake mining in the particular area. ”

Then Came The Welcomed Decision

Amid the public uproar, Zimbabwe’s government made a quick U-turn and rescinded on its decision, banning mining activities in all national parks. “Mining on areas held by national parks is banned with immediate effect. Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining titles held in national parks,” Zimbabwe’s Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, said

Per the new measures, “all those holding mining concessions will be given a grace period to be announced to obtain Environmental Impact Assessment and state of works plan…Stiff penalties shall be aimed at all those who are not complying with environmental provisions.”

Reacting to the government’s swift ban measures, Simiso Mlevu, spokeswoman for the Center for Natural Resource Governance said “Hwange national park is a unique and important enclave because it is home to more than 45,000 elephants and all other animals which make up the big five. We don’t think there is any tourist who would visit Zimbabwe to check on production of any mine. Tourists are attracted to wildlife. We hope the government will genuinely stay by its word.” VOA News reported. 

Beijing Needs To Do More Than Just Issuing A Public Statement

China is one of the countries with the largest number of its citizens who have ventured into mining in Zimbabwe. Some of them have been accused of not following the country laws and ill-treating workers. Therefore, suffice to mention that if China genuinely cares about Zimbabwe’s environment and economic wellbeing, then it’s recent recommendation must be backed with practical steps to cooperate with Zimbabwe in the fight against illegal mining activities.

Indeed if Zimbabwe’s Mining Policies can be used to improve the life of Its People, Beijing has a major role to play.  After all, it is established that the majority of the mining and drilling activities that have been going on for years in Zimbabwe have been done by Chinese citizens. More so, President Mnangagwa’s government’s recent declaration was in response to agitation to stop Chinese coal-mining grants in Hwange. 

Environmental groups say “more than 45,000 elephants are estimated to live in Hwange park along with more than 100 mammal and 400 bird species, including buffalos, leopards, and lions, that are already struggling for food and water in the vast savannah due to a prolonged drought. Mining would pollute remaining water sources in the park 14,500 square kilometers (5,600 square miles) park.”

Not only in Zimbabwe, but China needs to design a comprehensive national policy that seeks to cooperate with African countries like Ghana to ensure environmental and eco-friendly mining activities. 

Can Zimbabwe’s recent decisive response to protect its Hwange park inspire other African countries to become more conscious of protecting their natural resources, thereby preventing Chinese mining activities that pose threats to the environment?

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