‘Illegal gold miners continue to pose danger’

Illegal mining of gold has long-term effects on the ecosystem FILE PIC
Illegal mining of gold has long-term effects on the ecosystem FILE PIC

FRANCISTOWN: Widespread illegal mining operations in North Eastern part of Botswana are endangering the environment and the local communities, it has been revealed. The illicit mining activity is reportedly carried out mostly by illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe

Over 130 culprits from the same country have being arrested and appeared before court since last year. In an interview, North East District Council (NEDC) chairman, Kudzani Tobokwani, said illegal gold mining has become a pain in the neck for many. He stated that the majority of residents in the impacted areas, of Patayamatebele, Matsiloje, Mambo and Sechele, have been living in constant fear due to the illegal miners and the open pits left behind by illicit gold miners. According to Tobokwani, the illegal miners leave the pits open after they have dug in search of gold. “Some farmers have given up on their fields out of fear. The same offenders enter their territory with force and begin digging around their fields," he added. He said the same criminals operate in syndicates as well and that if they discover that one has anything of value, they attack and leave victims empty-handed. In addition, he mentioned that they had heard multiple accounts of animals, including cattle, getting stuck in the same open pits. He also said that while some of the animals sustain injuries, in other cases the damage worsens until the animals die.

Additionally, the NEDC chairman said these incidents negatively affect both arable and pastoral farmers. Reports say illicit gold mining operations have led to land degradation, including altered landscapes from excavation and flooding, as well as a decline in the physical state of the soil on agricultural land. Tobokwani added the illegal mining of gold in their region has long-term effects on the ecosystem, since it contaminates the land, groundwater, and surface water. Additionally, he pointed out that locals are usually harbouring these criminals as tenants in their households. He said some locals even alert the criminals whenever the police raid the villages while others help them transport gold to other nations. According to Tobokwani, the presence of law enforcement agencies, including the police, in the targeted areas has not decreased cases of illegal mining.

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