Zimbabwe’s government banned all mining in national parks on Tuesday. The news came one day after environmental rights lawyers went to court to stop a Chinese firm from exploring for coal in the country’s biggest game reserve.
Authorities in Zimbabwe had previously granted Chinese-owned Tongmao Coal Company a license to explore for coal in Hwange National Park, home to around 45,000 elephants and thousands of other species, including the black rhinoceros.
The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) filed an application to the High Court on Monday, claiming that allowing mining in a “protected national park is a breach of the constitutional duty to prevent ecological degradation and promote conservation”.
ZELA had warned that Hwange, a popular tourist magnet, would soon “become a site for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys” if coal exploration went ahead.
“There is an acute risk of irreversible ecological degradation including unmitigated loss of animal and vegetative species,” they added.
The move would also reduce the living area of many animals, including black rhinos, pangolins, elephants and wild dogs, they said.
The lawyers also feared mining would ruin safari tourism, a key source of income for locals.
The government backtracked on Tuesday and banned all mining in national parks with ‘immediate effect’, according to a post-meeting briefing note.
“Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining title(s) held in national parks.”