BY VENERANDA LANGA
JUSTICE minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has told Parliament that the forthcoming Mines and Minerals Bill will include provisions that will regulate the conduct of artisanal miners, and ensure their safety when carrying out underground mining activities.
The minister was responding to questions in Senate last week after Manicaland Senator Keresencia Chabuka asked him to explain government policy on small-scale mining in light of the Battlefields disaster, where 24 artisanal miners perished underground after drowning.
The mine collapsed after a dam burst its wall and water flooded the mineshafts.
The incident has also raised serious concerns over the safety of miners and disaster management responses by government’s Civil Protection Unit.
“The Ministry of Mines is in the process of capacitating small-scale miners to work in groups or syndicates, and they will be given equipment to ensure that their mining activities become safe,” Ziyambi said.
“I am sure that Parliament is aware of the Mines and Minerals Bill that was brought back to Parliament, and now it will also touch on issues of artisanal miners and regulate their conduct so that they can mine safely.”
The Mines and Minerals Bill was brought before Parliament in 2015 to amend the previous 1961 law, which had become outdated.
In 2018, both Houses passed the amendments, but President Emmerson Mnangagwa refused to sign it into law after stakeholders complained that their input had not been included, adding that the amendments did not include issues of prospectors.
The Bill has been left for further consideration so that it includes issues pertaining to artisanal miners, the mining cadaster system as well as those to do with exploration.
“The challenge with artisanal miners is that even when they are told that there is danger, they continue to mine in those mines. For example, at Eldorado Mine in Chinhoyi, they go there at night, despite the fact that the mine has been condemned,” Ziyambi said.
“They also need awareness that if they go underground in such mines, it is not safe.”
The minister was further asked by Mashonaland Senator Tapfumaneyi Wunganayi to explain why government was failing to close the mines, or even place guards to ensure that illegal mining activities were curbed.
“When these areas close, they are well secured to ensure that no one enters, but you know the country we live in, there is a lot of corruption taking place and they can pay the guards, then later on when there is a challenge, they let us know. Now we are putting in place measures to ensure they mine safely,” Ziyambi said.