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29 December, 2006 - Published 09:02 GMT
Over 16,000 arrested in Zimbabwe for illegal mining
Police in Zimbabwe have arrested more than 16,000 people as the government in Harare acts against illegal mining. During the 3-week campaign, officers focussed on informal living areas around mining areas seizing gold and diamonds. The BBC's Tony Andoh-Korsah reports:
Police launched the blitz codenamed "Chikorokoza Chapera" which means 'The End of Illegal Gold Dealings' following concerns over rampant smuggling of precious stones and environmental degradation in mining areas. They were collaborating with investigators from the central bank, the mines ministry and environmental authorities.
During the raids officers, burnt temporary homes used by the panners and recovered more than five-hundred thousand kilogrammes of gold and gold ore, and nearly five thousand diamonds. Police say the suspects were all released after paying or promising to pay admission of guilt fines.
Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans have turned to mining following the collapse of commercial agriculture in the country. People dig or pan for gold or diamonds, risking their lives in shallow mines which frequently collapse.
The government accuses powerful politicians and businessmen of buying minerals from panners and smuggling them outside the country. Among those arrested were dealers from neighbouring Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique.
Tony Andoh-Korsah, BBC News