Ezekiel Mbilinyi, Mbogwe District Forest Officer, said the increasing number of small-scale gold miners poses a serious threat to Mbogwe Bukombe Forest Reserve, which is close to Moyowosi and Kigosi Game reserves.
According to Mbilinyi, artisanal gold miners have been cutting down trees for building their mine pits, hence a challenge towards sustainable forest management.
“We've been fighting against the vice, but the fight seems to get out of hands as the speed of deforestation is alarming,” Mbilinyi said over the weekend when speaking to a group of journalists who visited the district.
He said small miners at Nyakafuri mine site have been cutting trees rampantly in violation of the laws on Forest Reserves and have been taking timber that they use in propping up their mineshafts, the practice that has destroyed many swathes of Mkweni Forest.
Mbilinyi said stern steps have started to be taken against miners engaged in such wanton destruction of the forest reserve managed by the agency to ensure tree cutting is not done in legally reserved forest areas.
He however called on residents of villages surrounding the forests to ensure they conduct their alternative activities including beekeeping for income generation as the areas they live in is friendly to beekeeping.
Mateo Shija, an artisanal at Nyakafuru mine site in the District asked the government through the ministry of minerals to provide them with education and modern tools for mining via modern technology that will reduce wanton tree cutting.
Guchonza Makoye, another miner and a mineral trader said if the government will loan them with mining equipment such as tractors and other equipment it will assist in reducing deaths from mines collapse.