An African elephant, in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, November 19, 2012 -
MARTIN BUREAU AFP
Zimbabwe on Tuesday banned all mining from the country's nature reserves.
The decision follows a lawsuit to prevent a Chinese company from opening a coal mine in the country's largest protected park.
The government had authorized the Tongmao Coal Company to explore for coal in the Hwange reserve, which is home to more than 45,000 elephants and numerous wildlife.
On Monday, the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) filed a petition against the deal.
The resources of the local population threatened
"The operation of a mine in a protected natural park contravenes the constitutional duty to prevent ecological degradation and to promote preservation", estimated the association.
According to environmental law lawyers, mining would run an "irreversible risk of ecological degradation" for flora and fauna.
As a result, "safari-type tourism" and "the ecological use of this resource", a "vital" source of income for the local population, were threatened.
This mining exploration being "imminent", the lawyers "urgently" asked the court to prohibit Chinese society and the government "from causing the ruin of the once immaculate Hwange park".
On Tuesday, the government therefore backtracked and banned all mining operations on reserves "with immediate effect".
Measures have already been taken to cancel the authorizations for drilling in national parks already granted.
Zimbabwe: 12 elephants found dead had ingested bacteria
Sri Lanka: To protect elephants, import of plastic products soon to be banned