18 March 2013, Harare – Reports said police have arrested 62 people after swooping on over 1 000 illegal miners at Bikita Minerals Mine, where huge tantalite and diamond deposits were recently discovered.
The arrest of the illegal miners came in the wake of growing fears of massive land degradation at Zimbabwe’s sole lithium miner.
Tantalite is a black or brown mineral that is used in the manufacture of electronic goods such as cellphones and computers.
Global demand for the mineral has been surging of late.
Masvingo provincial police spokesman Inspector Peter Zhanero confirmed the arrest of the illegal miners, saying the investigations were on-going.
Zhanero said police wanted to curb rampant illegal mining of tantalite that had drawn hundreds of people at Bikita Minerals lithium mine since the beginning of the month.
“We have arrested 62 people after we raided panners who were mining tantalite illegally at Bikita Minerals Mine.
“Those who were arrested are in custody while investigations continue. The suspects will appear in court soon,” he said.
The discovery of tantalite sparked a massive influx of illegal miners to Bikita Minerals Mine early this month with some of the miners coming from as far as Zaka, Gutu and Chiredzi.
The tantalite deposits were discovered in an area that falls under Bikita Minerals Mine and efforts by the lithium miner to regularise the mining of tantalite suffered a stillbirth after the number of illegal miners continued to swell.
On average the panners sell a kilogramme of tantalite for US$75 and impoverished villagers from drought-stricken southern parts of Masvingo province had found a life line in tantalite mining.