MAC: Mines and Communities

Zimasco pollution scandal in Zimbabwe

Published by MAC on 2016-09-22
Source: Allafrica.com, Zimbabwe Independent (2016-09-19)

Toxic effluents in water bodies around its ferrochrome processing plant in Kwekwe confirmed by EMA

Chinese-operated smelting company is at the centre of a pollution scandal after recent Environmental Management Agency (EMA) tests confirmed the existence of toxic effluents in water bodies around its ferrochrome processing plant in Kwekwe.

Menawhile, operations at Zimasco West Plant were shut down last week after Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority switched off the company for disregarding an EMA order to shut down.

Zimbabwe: EMA Uncovers Mine Pollution

The Herald - http://allafrica.com/stories/201609160738.html

16 September 2016

The Zimbabwe Mining and Smelting Company (Zimasco) is at the centre of a pollution scandal after recent Environmental Management Agency (EMA) tests confirmed the existence of toxic effluent in water bodies around its ferrochrome processing plant in Kwekwe.

EMA said surrounding communities such as Mbizo could be affected by the pollution after tests revealed that some water bodies were contaminated with chromium VI levels which were way above the World Health Organisation guidelines.

The environmental watchdog's findings in June validated an earlier independent report on the pollution Zimasco has been causing since the 1990s, prompting the State agency to order the company to take remedial measures.

Water samples taken at the nearby Chiedza Primary School showed that the school's borehole was contaminated with chromium VI, forcing EMA to intervene by ordering the decommissioning of the water source until further tests revealed that it was safe to consume the water.

The Sinosteel Corporation-owned company hired consultants Stewart Scott in 1999 to fix its environmental issues but the problem remained unsolved after Zimasco apparently ignored recommendations to build a water treatment and pollution control plant.

EMA discovered in May this year that effluent containing hexavalant was being generated during alloy slag-recovery processes and contaminating nearby rivers such as Sebakwe, exposing surrounding communities to health challenges as chromium VI is a poisonous substance which could cause respiratory and skin problems.

"With the realisation of traces of chromium contamination at Chiedza Primary School borehole, there is need to provide an interim alternative water source for the school to guard against chromium poisoning for school children while further investigations of the pollution are ongoing.

"Zimasco should immediately start the decontamination process for highly contaminated areas such as the effluent that is currently contained in the holding ponds as the laboratory analytical results have shown significant levels of chromium hexavalent and install mitigatory measures to avoid further pollution of the environment, soil, ground and surface water in future operations," reads part of the EMA report.

Mining and Smelting Company

The communities have since filed a $500 million class lawsuit against Zimasco for polluting the environment and the matter is pending.


Zimbabwe: Portnex Operations Shut Down

Chris Muronzi

Zimbabwe Independent - http://allafrica.com/stories/201609090274.html

9 September 2016

SMELTING operations at Zimbabwe Mining and Smelting Company (Pvt) Ltd (Zimasco) West Plant, which is being leased to Portnex International, were shut down on Thursday last week after Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority switched off the company for disregarding an Ema order to shut down.

According to sources, Portnex failed to submit an environmental management plan to Environmental Management Agency (Ema), businessdigest had established. The company is said to have resumed smelting operations at Zimasco West plant on Wednesday afternoon.

A Portnex executive Neil Wilson refused to comment, referring all questions to his lawyers.

Questions sent to Vengai Madzima, a lawyer for Portnex local entity, Niarchos Investments (Pvt) Ltd had not been responded to at the time of going to press.

Sources close to the developments said Portnex's operations were shut down on Thursday last week by Ema after the South African company failed to submit an environmental management plan to the regulator.

Ironically, Niarchos is suing Zimasco over environmental pollution and is demanding US$500 million in damages on behalf of a handful of Kwekwe residents.

Ema this week confirmed it had shut down the operation, but Portnex management went on to ignore the order and continued operating. The agency's spokesperson Steady Kangata told businessdigest that an environmental management plan was a pre-requisite for any mining operation.

"Whether Portnex was told or ordered not to operate without an environmental management plan, the bottom line is that mining is a prescribed activity and they need it," Kangata said. "Such a plan is not transferrable."

Ema is said to have asked Zesa to disconnect power to the plant, bringing operations to a halt.

Relations between Ema and Portnex seem to have soured after Portnex through its local entity, Niarchos, joined the regulator to a US$500 million class action suit against Zimasco for allegedly polluting the environment and causing diseases in the city.

Zesa technicians are said to have cut supplies to Portnex this week at the behest of Ema after Portnex executives ignored the Ema order.

Madzima last week accused Zimasco of sabotaging his clients by shorting them of ore feedstock for the smelting plant the company is leasing from the ferrochrome producer as provided for by the agreement, a charge Zimasco dismissed.

A Zimasco spokesperson said Portnex's accusations were defamatory.

"For Portnex to allege sabotage is defamatory and Zimasco would challenge this company to provide the evidence of the alleged sabotage. Below are the circumstances surrounding the issue of ores for Portnex: Portnex signed a lease agreement with Zimasco for the leasing of furnaces and indicated that they had secured their own sources of ore to run the three furnaces," the Zimasco spokesperson said.

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