Robert Rwafa, the EMA Mashonaland Central provincial manager told journalists during a recent tour of the town that houses at the National Railways of Zimbabwe compound were some of the structures threatened by the illegal mining activities.
He said the agency had since discovered that the panners were hired by people claiming to own mining claims issued by the government.
“Even those digging a few metres away from the town centre are said to be claim holders,” Rwafa said.
“But where is the mining commissioner’s office when these people leave open pits and gullies all over town?
“These gullies are affecting the beauty of Bindura and exposing children from nearby houses to dangers of falling into these pits.
“All this destruction could be avoided if we consulted each other.”
Some of the panners claimed they were forced into illegal mining by economic hardships.
Tatenda Kasambarare (20), said he was forced into gold panning after he was expelled from school where he was doing Form IV for failing to pay tuition fees.
“I also have to raise enough to buy food at home and also for my siblings’ school fees,” he claimed.
Although Kasambarare said the panners knew that the pits they dug were supposed to be back-filled, evidence on the ground showed massive damage to the environment.
The panners said some of the pits they had abandoned were as deep as 10 metres.
Rwafa also accused Chinese miners of worsening the situation by using heavy machinery and emptying large amounts of waste into rivers.
Tendayi Nyamuguru, a lecturer in the department of environmental science at Bindura University said gold panning in the town was now a health and political issue.
“These pits are likely to collapse during the rainy season, something which may lead to the loss of lives and they can also be breeding ground for mosquitoes,” Nyamuguru said.
“What we need is strong political will for a vigorous awareness campaign aimed at teaching both legal and illegal miners about the importance of land rehabilitation.”
Police officer commanding Bindura Kudakwashe Nhakwi said they had raided the panners on a number of occasions but sentences imposed by the courts were not deterrent enough.