The High Court of Zimbabwe this morning made a landmark ruling on environmental rule of law. Zimbabwe Diamond Consolidated Mining Company (ZCDC) was ordered to halt its diamond mining operations in Marange immediately pending approval of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA). EIAs are carried out to ensure that the environmental, socio-economic and cultural anticipated impacts with a project are mitigated.
Since 2016, ZCDC has been operating in Marange following the non-renewal of the former diamond mining companies’ licences. In the matter concerned, an application was filed by a community group from Marange, the Marange Development Trust (MDT) against the company. MDT sought an interdict from the court based on its concerns over the failure by the company to produce the EIA report and license of its operations in the area. In terms of section 97 of the Environmental Management Act as read with the First Schedule of the Act, mining is listed as part of the activities that cannot commence until the issuance of an approved EIA certificate. An EIA certificate is issued upon approval by EMA. ZCDC had argued in its notice of opposition papers that it should be allowed to continue mining operations in Marange pending the approval of the EIA report submitted to EMA in 2016.
In delivering his judgement, Justice Mangota reproached ZCDC’s actions in approaching the court with dirty hands whilst in full knowledge of the legislative provisions. He reiterated that the law is clear regarding developmental projects that require EIA certificates, hence all persons should abide by it.
Speaking after the delivery of the judgement, Malvern Mudiwa the chairperson of MDT commended the judgment. Mr Mudiwa said “the judgement illustrates the importance of public interest litigation and importance of communities to approach the courts for redress where the law has been violated.”
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) provided legal support to MDT. Ms Veronica Zano, a senior legal officer applauded the judgement as setting environmental law and justice precedence. She said “The judgement upholds Section 73 of the Constitution that recognises everyone’s right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well- being. Therefore, it is the duty of the state, both natural and juristic person to uphold the Constitution”