Environmentalists have raised fears that coal mines in the park would devastate wildlife and have a negative effect on tourism, Zimbabwe's key source of income. The government eventually relented and declared the ban.
Zimbabwe has banned mining in all 11 of its national parks, which marks a major win for the endangered biodiversity of the region.
The historic announcement, as confirmed by BBC News, means officials have revoked their previous deal to encourage Chinese companies to exploit coal in their famed Hwange game park – home to around 40,000 elephants and a herd of endangered black rhino.
Furthermore, the world-renowned Hwange National Park-the largest national park in the country-is also home to leopard and painted dog conservation services.
The move comes after activists pursued legal action against the administration, calling on officials inside the nation's parks to discourage "ecological destruction". The protest was headed by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA), which campaigned to block the mining rights that were issued in 2015 for more than five years.
On Monday, ZELA filed court papers threatening that if coal mining were to be given, the parks would become "sites for fracking, ground clearing, road construction and geological surveys."
In response, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced on Tuesday (September 8) that a ban would be placed with immediate effect. She said: "Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining titles held in national parks."
Moreover, Mutsvangwa will also forbid mining along river beds in much of the country, a move that will affect small-scale Chinese and local gold miners.
The deputy director of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Organisation, Shamiso Mtisi, clarified how mining around Zimbabwe is a "widespread" issue per the New York Times.
Mtisi said: "There is gold and diamond mining going on in several national parks across the country, it’s not just in Hwange. That’s a major threat to biodiversity and to tourism. It’s an economic issue, you cannot just rely on mining, you need to leverage on other sectors such as tourism."
#PostCabinetBriefing— Ministry of Information, Publicity & Broadcasting (@InfoMinZW) September 8, 2020
Mining on areas held by National Parks is banned with immediate effect. Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining title held in national parks. pic.twitter.com/XbUwfcLvKY
The Times adds that Hwange Park is home to over 100 mammals and 400 species of birds as well as the huge population of elephants-such as buffalos, leopards, and lions.
Earth organizations have clarified since then that many of these animals are already fighting for food and water in the vast savannah due to severe drought, and the planned extraction will only result in the remaining supplies of water being polluted.
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