[JURIST] The government of Zimbabwe [JURIST news archive] has arrested at least 16,290 gold panners in the last three weeks in a continuation of its controversial Operation Restore Order [Wikipedia], according to a report [text] by Harare's Herald newspaper. Police have also bulldozed and razed many of the temporary homes built by the miners close to the mining fields, displacing more than three million people. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile] has said the campaign is necessary to put an end to widespread crime, and the country's police commissioner has defended the operation as vital to protect the country's environment, but United Nations officials have said [official report] that the impact on those displaced is devastating to the economy of the country. The arrests come more than a year after the campaign was introduced.
Mining has become Zimbabwe's top foreign currency earner, and the latest phase of the operation has focused mainly on mining near the country's borders, where international smuggling of illegally mined gold and diamonds was rampant. Many, including women and children, turned to mining when the country's agricultural industry collapsed. Reuters has more.