The Zimbabwean government on Wednesday announced an immediate ban on illegal panning for precious minerals as it has become a major threat to Zimbabwe's agriculture and natural resources.
Environment and Tourism Minister Francis Nhema said it has become necessary to immediately put a stop to the illegal mining activities in all the country's ten provinces, adding that more than 600,000 people were now directly involved in the activity,
"As government, we have banned panning activities because we have collectively come to the conclusion that the environmental costs emanating from the panning activities far outweigh the benefits accruing to the panners," he said.
He said the accelerated rate of panning could turn the country to rubble in the next few years if unstopped.
Discovery of minerals such as gold and diamonds has seen people from all walks of life venturing into illegal panning, resulting in destruction of huge tracts of land.
Nhema said panning activities had resulted not only in environmental degradation but also in chemical contamination of water bodies, indiscriminate cutting down of trees and destruction of fragile and sensitive habitats including wetlands and riverine ecosystems.
Illegal panning also eroded the gains of the land agrarian exercise as agricultural land was riddled with holes, he said, adding that the success of the country's economy hinged on economically viable and environmentally sustainable policies.
The minister called on small-scale miners to ensure they adhere to the Environmental Management Act, and called for stakeholder dedication and commitment to bring panning to an end.
Among the many reasons why panning is being banned are lack of accountability for minerals as most of them, especially gold and diamonds, are finding their way into lucrative markets out of the country at the expense of the economy.