Miners demand input into proposed Bill

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Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners Association chairperson Blessing Togarepi

BY THOMAS CHIDAMBA

ZIMBABWE’S 1,5 million strong small-scale miners yesterday said they were worried that the much-talked about Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill could be passed into law before their concerns over title administration are considered.

The Mines and Mining Development ministry and the Attorney-General (AG)’s office have been reviewing grey areas in the proposed amendments before the Bill is re-read in Parliament.

The Bill nearly sailed through two years ago before President Emmerson Mnangagwa referred it back to the AG’s office for recrafting to address some anomalies.

Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners Association (ASSA) chairperson Blessing Togarepi said backstage deals in title allocation were some of the issues that they raised over the Bill.

Small-scale miners said they had not been briefed about changes proposed by the President, and wanted a fresh round of consultations before the Bill became law.

Togarepi said small-scale miners were mostly worried about proposals to appoint a Mining Affairs Board that oversees title allocation.

“Our bone of contention is what reason justifies the involvement of a (Mining Affairs) board in granting mining rights?” Togarepi told NewsDay Business.

“How many times will that board sit and how many people will be interviewed weekly, monthly and annually?

“Is this not creating a needless bottleneck in mineral searching and mine title administration? How inclusive is the board system judging from similar boards elsewhere?

“How many people will qualify before a board? If the board knows that the area that I want to extract minerals from is lucrative and promising, will it not be tempted to decline my application and later sell my find to the highest bidder?” Togarepi queried. “We appreciate some improvements and amendments in the Bill.

“However, these are areas which we have noted with concern that if these amendments are to be adopted, then small-scale miners will not enjoy any benefit compared to a situation whereby the status quo is maintained,” he added.

The issue of mining title allocation generated heated debate in March last year after government issued 20 exclusive prospecting orders (EPOs) across the country, giving mining firms the rights to prospect for minerals for the next three years.

Each EPO covered 65 000 hectares, according to a general notice in the Government Gazette.

There was disquiet among small-scale and artisanal miners who complained that EPOs were covering the whole country.

Once a place is classified as an EPO, small-scale miners are excluded.

“Almost 80% of the whole country has been blanketed by these EPO applications,” Zimbabwe Prospectus Union president Samson Dzingwe said at the time.

Togarepi also said it was worrisome that almost the whole country was now under EPOs.

“We are concerned that most of the country is now under EPOs. We urge prospective small-scale miners to make an effort to peg mines before the whole country is covered by EPOs,” said Togarepi.

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