FIXED infrastructure and movable property at Kwekwe’s Camelot Group of Schools is under threat from illegal mining activities that are taking place within the premises and outside.
Worryingly, the development comes just when the Kwekwe community is yet to resolve the collapse of a classroom block at Globe and Phoenix Primary School into underground mining tunnels, which left scores of learners at the school injured.
A house in the same neighborhood also fell into a shallow underground tunnel as a result of illegal mining activities, which are rampant in the city.
Camelot Group of Schools, which has primary and secondary schools, is the latest to fall victim to illegal mining activities amid reports that a number of mines had registered their claims within the school premises.
The development has prompted the Kwekwe District Civil Protection Unit (CPU), led by the chairman, Mr Fortune Mpungu, to visit the site and assess the situation.
It has emerged that three mines were registered within the school premises and they produced special grants from Kwekwe City Council while another was registered with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development in 1990s before the establishment of the school. The miners are using these special grants by Kwekwe City Council to extract the yellow metal from the area.
However, the school through its board chair Mr Jethro Nyarota has raised alarm over potential risks given that the mines were pegged within the 80-hectare piece of land, which belongs to the school.
“We are worried that these mining activities are going to damage infrastructure and disturb the learning process,” said Mr Nyarota.
“We also have plans to construct hostels and expand the school towards the area, which is being operated by the miners, and by the time we want to construct the hostels, the land would have been damaged.”
He said some parents were even contemplating removing their children from the school fearing for their safety. District Schools Inspector, Mr Herbert Maziriri said the development was undermining the education system.
“I think when authorities are issuing these permits, they should prioritise the safety of learners and prioritise education,” he said.
“Camelot is one of the best schools in the district in terms of pass rates and performance. If this continues to happen under our watch, we are sending the wrong message.”
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Kwekwe District officer, Mr Daniel Magombedze, ordered the closure of the mines with immediate effect.
“Being granted a special grant does not mean the miners should start mining. They should go through all the processes with the Ministry of Mines and unless we grant them the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the mining remains illegal. The mining should therefore stop forthwith,” he said.
“It’s impossible that where there is a school, we also get mines to be pegged, the two can never co-exist. Therefore, we have to choose either the school or we choose the mining, because mining comes with a lot of environmental degradation.”
Representing the miners, Mr Munyaradzi Munyanyi said they did not have qualms with putting their house in order and urged the council to regularise their paperwork.
“We were doing everything above board. We apparently followed all pegging procedures to such an extent that some papers are now at advanced stages where permits are about to be released by the Ministry of Mines,” he said.
“But we will liaise with the council to see how best we can address this.”
Mr Mpungu, who is also Kwekwe District Development Coordinator said the Globe and Phoenix Primary School experience should play a role in guiding the final decision saying the council should be given time to rectify the anomalies.
“We should have a win-win situation where the school should be happy and the miners are also happy. So, we will give the local authority to look into the matter and see how this issue can be resolved before another meeting next week,” he said