By Andrew Kunambura/DESMOND CHINGARANDE

BULAWAYO High Court judge Justice Owen Tagu has struck off the roll a case where the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) and a Hwange resident sought to bar a Chinese mining firm, Zhongxin Mining Group Tongmao Coal Company (Pvt) Ltd, from conducting coal mining operations inside Hwange National Park.

“Having considered the papers filed of record, it would seem while the necessary paperwork was done, some appear to have been done after the special grants were issued. While the matter on the face of it appears urgent on that basis, the application still is improperly before the court because the relevant parties were not cited and there are material disputes of facts.

“I have been asked to dismiss the application, however I feel the appropriate action at this stage is to strike the matter off the roll of urgent matters in view of non-citations of relevant parties and the existence of material disputes of fact,” Justice Tagu ruled.

Zhongxin Mining Group on Thursday defended its controversial operations in the giant Hwange National Park and sought to have the court challenge dismissed on a technicality.

The firm, represented by Jingini Tsivama of Sawyer and Mukushi, argued that it had no case to answer since there was a dispute of facts, implying there were not mining activities taking place except for exploratory works.

Tsivama also appeared for the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), the second respondent while Advocate Agyver Sawunyama appeared for Zela and a Hwange resident, Fidelis Chima.

The company also argued that the application was defective in that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was not jointed in the case along with Environment and Tourism minister Mangaliso Ndlovu as should have been the case.

This is despite the fact that Ndlovu’s representative had submitted that she was not opposed to the relief sought and requested to be excused from further proceedings as the minister would abide by the court’s decision after Cabinet at its meeting last week resolved to terminate all mining permits in wildlife reserves.

However, Sawunyama countered the argument saying the non-joinder did not destroy the case.

Zela and Chima applied to the High Court to stop the Chinese company from mining coal in the national park which hosts one of Africa’s largest elephant populations, saying such activities would cause devastating ecological degradation and force wildlife to flee.

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