Small-scale chrome miners have invaded the Mapanzure area in Zvishavane, Zimbabwe by conducting illegal mining activities along the Gweru-Zvishavane railway line, amid growing fears of destruction of the infrastructure, which could ultimately lead to derailments.

National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) acting spokesperson Mr Martin Banda said 18 650m of rail has been affected by illegal mining activities that have seen some encroaching into rail leading to the ballast on railway tracks on tracks falling into the pits.

He said the affected area around Adams stretches for about 12km.

“The NRZ has observed with concern, the disturbing increasing incidences of illegal mining activities and ground subsidence after heavy rains fill up pits and tunnels left previously by illegal mining activities along the railway system. Adams Siding near Zvishavane is one of the areas where illegal mining activities are taking place too close to the railway line,” said Mr Banda.

According to Section 38(3)(c) of the Railway Act chapter 13:09, digging excavation, drilling tunnelling under or otherwise tampering with the ground within 40 metres on either side of the middle of a railway track to the actual or potential detriment of the safety of railway traffic is prohibited.

Mr Banda also mentioned that mining activities are also happening in other parts of the country, particularly in Tatagura, Mazowe, Bindura Town, and Jumbo Siding in Mashonaland Central Province.

Environmental Management Agency (EMA) spokesperson Amkela Sidange said the scramble for chrome had led to serious environmental degradation in the Midlands.

According to EMA, the unsustainable chrome mining along the Great Dyke was mainly driven by the lifting of the ban on chrome exports, rising prices for the mineral on international markets and the increased number of chrome washing and smelting plants in the Midlands.