From : Financialgazette.co.zw
15 June 2012
BULAWAYO — Plans by Africa Sunlight Energy to commercially exploit methane gas in Matabeleland North have suffered a major blow after the Chinese firm failed an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The company has since been ordered to halt preperations, dashing hopes for alternative power generation in the region. Africa Sunlight Energy was in the middle of exploring coal and coal-bed methane in Gwayi with a view to establish a power station. But the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is of the view that its report was not convincing. EMA spokesperson, Steady Kangaka told The Financial Gazette that the agency,
as the custodian of the environment, would not give a go ahead to projects that might harm the ecosystem. “The development we want is a sustainable one which will remain long after we have departed from this planet. It must be economically, socially and
environmentally friendly. If one of those parameters is missing then as EMA we cannot give a go ahead,” said Kangaka.
“It has to be done in a proper manner. In this instance, the company wants to mine near a conservancy area therefore we have to be absolutely sure that it will not interrupt with water supply and wildlife,” he added. The Gwayi Valley Intensive Conservation Area had also complained about the growing number of coal mining companies operating in the conservancy fearing their operations would destroy the hunting and photographic safaris, which are their major source of revenue in the wildlife-rich area. During a consultative stakeholders meeting last month, it emerged that open cast coal-mining activities have affected 32 farms in the conservancy where more than 1 000 people reside. Of late, several companies have been given rights to start mining and exploration activities in the coal-rich region, with the latest being Discovery Investments Company, which was given the green light to conduct coal bed methane gas exploration in Mzola and Dandanda communal lands in Lupane and Binga districts; Markrock Exploration and Mining Company for coal exploration in the Gwayi area of Lupane as well as Glotech Engineering for a Spiral Plant at Hwange Colliery. Recently, the Minister of Mines and Mining Development Obert Mpofu announced that more companies were keen on investing in mining activities in Matabeleland North and took a swipe at the Gwayi Catchment Council stakeholders for trying to block the new investments, which he said will go a long way in uplifting the livelihoods of ordinary people. Economic commentator, Eric Bloch, said it will take time before the methane gas is fully exploited to provide alternative power for the whole