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USDA Forest Service provides responsible metals mining training to Zimbabwean Civil Society Organizations

Three women pose together for the camera
USDA Forest Service Geologist Mary Beth Marks (center) with two representatives from Women in Mining, Blessing Hungwe (left) and Nomuhle Ncube (right). Forest Service photo by Mary Beth Marks.

ZIMBABWE – In early May, the USDA Forest Service provided instruction on responsible metals mining during a week-long course in Harare, Zimbabwe, co-hosted by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association. Workshop participants included 32 representatives from civil society organizations working throughout Zimbabwe, several of whom are also active miners, as well as three participants from Ghana, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Instruction for the workshop was provided by 10 Zimbabwean presenters together with Forest Service presenters Mary Beth Marks, geologist, Custer-Gallatin National Forest, and Sonny Thornborrow, geoscientist, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

Sometimes referred to as the “Persian Gulf of minerals”, Zimbabwe hosts rich mineral resources. The recent rise of artisanal gold mining and new large-scale coal mining investments in Zimbabwe has resulted in a spike in prospecting and mining operations that impact protected wildlife and forest land. From a conservation and environmental perspective, these forays into protected areas cause environmental damage, water pollution due to use of mercury, land degradation and loss of biodiversity and wildlife, among other ecological effects. Mining in protected areas has also resulted in open conflict between miners, conservationists, farmers and tourists. There is limited information on the nature, extent and profile of the problem; how mining can be conducted sustainably; and the environmental impacts and economic benefits of mining.

Instructional topics for the course covered several broad themes: the Zimbabwean mining context; large-scale mining and associated case studies; artisanal and small-scale mining; and the intersection of mining, biodiversity and protected areas. USDA Forest Service instructors presented on the U.S. legal and policy framework for the mining sector, the mining lifecycle from prospecting to reclamation, environmental impact analysis, reclamation bonding and case studies on large mine community involvement. The workshop also featured a one-day field to the Mutoko granite mines, which allowed workshop participants to interact with communities living near the mines and several sessions to identify priorities for future work.

The course was organized by the International Programs Office, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development’s Africa Bureau.

Man giving a presentationin front of of a room; power point slide projected to a screen on the background
USDA Forest Service GeoScientist Sonny Thornborrow presenting on environmental impact assessment for mining projects. Forest Service photo by Beth Hahn.
A group of Zimbabwean women sittignand posing for the camera
Community members living near the Mutoko granite mines. Forest Service photo by Beth Hahn.