Watching Avatar, a film produced by James Cameron, reminded me of the present situation in mineral-rich Zimbabwe where in all the excitement over the country's mineral wealth, little regard is being paid to preserving the environment.
It would only take a fool to attempt to dispute the fact that mining is very useful to all of us as it avails minerals that we require for innumerable everyday uses.
In fact, without mining, we would be taken back to the Stone Age and I doubt if there is anyone who would honestly want that!
The harnessing of the locally available minerals should indeed see an economically-struggling nation like Zimbabwe getting itself out of the poverty cycle, something that no one should wish to deprive the country of.
My only gripe is how the environmental impact of mining is being given very little, if any, attention.
Mining often involves the excavation of the minerals from the earth, processes that often involve a lot of activities, all differing in extent according to the mineral being mined and the mining method being employed.
These range from open-pit, placer, strip to artisanal mining among others.
Some of the general impact of mining on the environment include high energy consumption, reduction in the quality of air, water contamination and great damage to the landscape.
Most mining companies would no doubt like us to believe that these are necessary evils that are bound to come with the wealth, a mentality that we should dispel.
The issue of mining and its impact on the environment has been a subject of contention between mining companies and environmentally-conscious individuals the world over.
Although there has been general consensus on the fact that we cannot do without the mining industry, we need to agree that the activities should be undertaken in a manner that is friendly to the environment.
Yes, mining companies carry environmental impact assessment studies before starting their activities, but there is little on the ground that shows they carry through their plans.
Like all other environment-conscious countries, Zimbabwe should enforce the Mining Act, which emphasises the rehabilitation and reclamation of mines, requiring mining companies to present rehabilitation plans before they can be granted mining rights.
Mining companies should agree to contribute to decreasing the negative impact to the environment without necessarily disrupting the supply of minerals by engaging in what is called "Sustainable Mining".
Government should grant mining rights only after a company has signed a contract stating that it would implement sustainable mining practices, among other conditions.
The country faces the problem of companies that occupy mineral-rich lands, and after having cleared the areas of vegetation, damaged the landscape and extracted all minerals, abandon them in search of more virgin lands to explore.
Mining should not be considered complete until the process known as Ecological Rebuilding has been completed.
The process involves reclaiming the land to make it suitable for usage in the future by returning the land as much as is possible to its original state. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see trees flourishing at a spot previously mined?
Many might feel that the gains derived from mining outweigh the environment, an ignorant and rather irresponsible way of looking at the problem that faces us and urgently needs a sustainable and viable solution.
What if minerals were to be discovered all over the country?
Would we then choose to do without trees and all that nature has to offer because we are more concerned about self-enrichment?
Maybe the most unfortunate part is that, although experiencing first-hand the effects of mining activities on their environment, villagers in the Marange area where the Chiadzwa diamonds are coming from, are not benefitting in any significant way.
In fact, they have been relocated from the diamond-rich area, leaving mining companies to enjoy the wealth in the land of their birth.