By Tendai Matunhu
The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development is set to conduct public hearings countrywide for the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill from 19 to 23 August, a move meant to gather input from stakeholders before the bill is submitted to Parliament.
The draft bill is expected to be complete by 31 October 2019 and the issues expected to be ironed out include, farmer and miner disputes, definition of a small scale miner, recognition of artisanal miners and the management of the environment, among other issues.
On the farmer-miner disputes, there will be need to balance the interests of both groups noting that mining operations should not reverse the gains of the Zimbabwe land reform programme, highlighted a Director in the Ministry.
According to the Director, the Ministry does not have a clear definition for small scale miners, a scenario which he says complicates the regulation of operations by small scale miners. He says the bill is expected to provide a definition, as they are only defined as “a holder of a mining location who is not a large-scale miner” and it is not enough.
The Director further says the Act does not recognise the operations of artisanal miners. He has encouraged the artisanal miners to register formally so that they easily get the necessary support from Government.
He says a number of small scale miners has had their output unaccounted for because they are unregistered. “Therefore their operations remain illegal despite contributing to the country’s mineral revenue,” said the Director.
The Zimbabwe Environment Law Association (ZELA) has since suggested the inclusion of a clause that empowers the Minister of Mines and Mining Development to provide regulations and policies which provide guidelines to operations of artisanal miners. Government is already working on finalizing the issue of acquiring Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPO) by miners.
The Director says at the moment, a policy cannot be made on artisanal miners since they are not recognised by law. He therefore, says environmental management issues are also expected to be factored in the bill.
He further reveals that the enactment of the bill will increase investment into the sector as it reduces uncertainty associated with regulation of mining industry.
Small scale miners produce 60% of gold output and once formalised it will be recognized at a high level as it is Ministry’s vision to produce 100 tonnes of gold from the current 40 tonnes per annum by 2023.
The October timeline will also see the Ministry of Mines submitting the amended Gold Trade Act and Precious Stones Trade Act to Parliament by October 30, 2019. The timelines have been necessitated by the realisation that the mining sector plays a pivotal role in Zimbabwe’s economic development agenda, especially in relation with the attainment of Vision 2030 of an upper middle income society.