Zimbabwe Lawyers Fight Coal Miner in Game Reserve

A herd of elephants make their way through the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe last November. (AP Photo/File)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AFP) — A group of Zimbabwean environmental rights lawyers have gone to court to bar a Chinese firm from exploring for coal inside the country’s biggest game reserve, court papers showed Tuesday.

According to reports, authorities in Zimbabwe have 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.

In their application to the High Court filed on Monday and seen by AFP on Tuesday, the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) said allowing mining in a “protected national park is a breach of the constitutional duty to prevent ecological degradation and promote conservation”.

ZELA said if the plans go ahead Hwange, a popular tourist magnet, would soon “become a site for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys”.

“Concomitantly, there is acute risk of irreversible ecological degradation including unmitigated loss of animal and vegetative species, reduction of animal habitats of many rare species including black rhino, pangolin, elephant and wild dogs,” they said.

The lawyers expressed fear that the prospecting would ruin safari tourism, a key source of income for locals.

“Since drilling and other land stripping is imminent,” the lawyers said they “urgently seek” the interdiction of Tongmao Coal and the Zimbabwe state mining company from ruining “the once pristine Hwange National Park”.

There was no immediate comment from government.

© Agence France-Presse

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