Norwegian law students applaud community environmental monitoring initiative


Compiled by Tafadzwa Mvududu

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) held a wide range of activities to help a group of nine visiting Norwegian law students from Humak University, experience and better understand the need for responsible mining in Zimbabwe.

Despite setting foot in the country for the first time, supported by Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and ZELA, the aspiring legal professionals noted the need to ensure that communities in mining areas were protected from harmful mining practices and the central role the law plays in facilitating transparency and accountability in mining.

“It is crucial to incorporate robust environmental safeguards within the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill to mitigate the adverse ecological impacts of mining and stricter regulations on waste management, reclamation practices, and the protection of fragile ecosystems,’ said Trym, one of the students as she reflected on the visit.

“There is also a need to include provisions within the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill that promote meaningful engagement and consultation with local communities affected by mining operations. Community members should have a voice in decision-making processes, ensuring their concerns are heard and addressed,” she added, exhibiting an understanding of the general mining landscape in Zimbabwe.

This understanding was gained after the students interacted with mining in Zimbabwe from different perspectives, starting with an opportunity to explore Zimbabwe’s rich mining heritage, at the Zimbabwe School of Mines (ZSM). From its inception in 1926, the school has produced competent mining practitioners whose demand in the SADC region and internationally is notable.

Guided by ZSM Research and Innovation Officer Paul Matshona, they interacted with students and delved into the world of geology, mineral processing, and sustainable mining practices, quickly noting the wealth of knowledge shared and the commitment of the faculty to strike a balance between economic development and environmental preservation.

As upcoming professionals with a specific interest in and appetite for environmental law, the students stepped into the shoes of environmental community monitors, a ZELA initiative for communities to own and lead local environmental protection efforts. To enable deeper understanding, the students were taken on a tour of Turk mine, one of the biggest gold mines in Zimbabwe, where they witnessed first-hand the complex processes involved in extracting gold and gained insights into the social, economic, and environmental impacts of mining activities.

 The students got an opportunity to compare large- and small-scale mining operations as they also visited a woman led small-scale mine and met with other women who defied societal norms and made significant contributions to Zimbabwe’s mining industry. The women shared their stories of resilience, determination, and the challenges they faced in a male-dominated field, as well as their journey towards becoming responsible miners who also value Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues with guidance and support from the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association.

“The women we met today deserve support from the Zimbabwean government, through the formulation of laws that specifically protect and address their needs. It is crucial to facilitate their access to mines and simplify the registration process, ensuring equal opportunities for women in this field,” said Ingrid.

“However, I am happy to witness the inclusion of women in the mining industry, as it signifies progress towards achieving gender equality. Today I was given the opportunity to be a community monitor for a day, and my priority was to monitor the safety of women miners during their work. It is truly commendable that the small-scale miners we visited prioritize safety measures,” she added.

The students’ recommendations to address environmental, social and governance issues in mining through the law resonate with ZELA’s expectation that the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill will address issues of women’s access to mining claims and will bolster implementation of other progressive measures like the Cadastre system

As they prepared for a return trip to Humak University, the Norwegian law students said their experience as community environmental monitors was transformative and ignited their passion for environmental justice and legal advocacy. They revealed that their encounters ignited their interest in responsible mining practices that prioritize sustainability and community well-being.

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