The Oppenheimer family blocks mining exploration at their cattle ranch in Matabeleland

The Oppenheimer family have won a court ban in Zimbabwe to block mineral exploration at their cattle ranch in Matabeleland South.

The 65,000 hectare Shangani Ranch is home to at least 8,000 cattle and is said to be rich in gold, silver, copper, antimony, lead, cobalt, manganese, zinc, nickel, chromium, graphite and lithium.

Through their company, Shangani Holistic, the family turned to the courts after a South African company Pearline Mineral Exploration began carrying out an aerial survey of the property.

Harare High Court Judge Siyabona Paul Musithu ruled that Pearline Mineral Exploration should stop “all mining activities” at the ranch.

The Oppenheimers argued in court that the farm had 400 employees who ran an operation that exported beef to the UK. They said they held 8,000 head of cattle at the ranch.

The farm is also a wildlife sanctuary as it serves as a corridor for migrating animals. At the farm there is a school for the local community, mainly for the children of the employees, with around 150 pupils.

As such, Judge Musithu ruled that mining activities would affect the community as well as wildlife conservation.

“Mineral exploration not only has the potential to cause harm to the environment, but also to livestock and wildlife. There is clearly a reasonable apprehension of harm if the project proceeds without due regard to the law,” did he declare.

The Oppenheimers acquired the property in 1937, two years before World War II. At the time, the estate covered 140,000 hectares.

But it was more than halved when the late President Robert Mugabe launched the chaotic land reform that displaced at least 4,000 white commercial farmers.

In 2014, to protect his family interests, Nicky Oppenheimer, heir to the DeBeers diamond fortune, met the late Mugabe.

“I was with Nicky about a week ago here, he has land here and he comes to his farm from time to time. He said I normally wear three hats, the De Beers Diamonds hat, then the hat Anglo Gold and the Oppenheimer family hat, but today I’m not wearing either of the other two that I first mentioned,” Mugabe told a diamond seminar just after the meeting.

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