Joint operation nets 336 illegal panners

A JOINT operation between the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) parks rangers and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) which started last year has netted more than 300 gold panners as illegal mining worsens in areas where the city draws its water.

All the city’s six supply dams are situated in Matabeleland South Province where illegal mining is rife.

As a result, the city has over the years been struggling to drive out illegal miners from its water works and catchment areas in Esigodini and other areas in Umzingwane.

According to latest council minutes, the joint operation, which was launched in January last year, is still on.

The report indicated that at least 13 gold panners appeared in court last month after being nabbed during the operation.

“Joint patrols were being conducted at the water catchment area by the rangers and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. During these patrols, 13 illegal gold miners were apprehended and handed over to the courts for prosecution. This brings to 336 gold panners arrested from January to December 2021,” read the report.

A consignment of tools and mining equipment were confiscated and handed over to police as court exhibits, the report reveals.

“During these raids, the following tools were confiscated: 22 crowbars, 49 picks, two hammers, one detector machine, one mobile phone and two wheel barrows. All items were handed over to ZRP as exhibits in courts,” the minutes said.

The gold panning activities are mostly rampant in Upper Ncema, Inyankuni and Umzingwane dams that are reportedly rich in alluvial gold deposits.

BCC is on record complaining about the illegal mining activities which it said were causing enormous siltation which in the end grossly affects the dams’ holding capacity.

Andile Tshuma