THE Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) says government should implement other measures to support its decision to ban lithium ore exports to lessen the detrimental effects the ban has had on artisanal miners.
In an effort to boost investment in domestic processing facilities, the government recently outlawed the export of raw lithium. This will help the country transition to a clean energy economy and make it a more significant player in the electric vehicle batteries manufacturing value chain.
Illegal artisanal mining, smuggling and externalisation to South Africa and the United Arab Emirates of lithium has reportedly cost the nation US$1,8 billion in lost mineral earnings.
Lithium is one of the critical raw materials required for energy transition and the manufacturing of cleaner technologies such as electric vehicles and Zimbabwe is the world’s sixth-largest producer and the largest lithium miner on the continent.
“Although SARW appreciates the economic imperative of banning raw lithium exportation, it is concerned about how its implementation has largely affected the artisanal miners who were earning a living from mining the ore and selling without value-addition,” the organisation said in a statement released on Wednesday.
“The ASM sector in Zimbabwe remains critical as it contributes to the livelihood of over 1,5 million people in the country. SARW proposes that the Zimbabwean government introduce a comprehensive and supportive ASM policy regime that encourages and incentivises the legalisation and formalisation of the sector.
“The country should create a legal and policy environment that is objective, consistent, transparent and non-discriminatory to some of the players in the sector. The gradual and systematic implementation of policies in a transparent and strategic way is key for the sector to thrive and for ensuring that the rights of those involved in mining are observed,” it said.
SARW contended that policies should address, not just the economic aspects, but be accompanied by education, training and transitional provisions that ensure that those affected by the policy are not disadvantaged.
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The organisation said government could organise artisanal miners into cooperatives and provide each registered cooperative with an artisanal mining zone(s) to exploit lithium which will be purchased by a government enterprise.
“However, mechanisms should be put in place to avoid the replica of what is happening in the gold and diamonds industries where we have seen the interplay between historical power relations and formal institutions that use cooperatives and joint ventures as an instrument for economic, political and customary elites to continue exercising power and exploiting miners economically,” it said.