New mining laws and policies are needed to ensure communities benefit from their resources and to improve transparency in the sector, a Parliamentary committee has recommended.
The report was presented to Parliament by the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development following a petition by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association calling for the speedy review of mining laws, to address challenges facing the industry such as irresponsible investments and degradation of the environment.
The report was presented last week by the committee’s chairperson Cde Edmond Mukaratigwa.
“The committee observed that there was a general consensus on the need to review the mining laws in Zimbabwe, particularly the principal Act, the Mines and Minerals Act,” he said.
The committee said stakeholders called for the composition of the Mining Affairs Board to be expanded to include other stakeholders such as civil society, communities, among others, while the powers of the board need to be decentralised so as to speedily resolve mining disputes or farmer-miner disputes.
“There is need to enforce the ‘use it or lose it’ policy to enable investors and locals to get access to unused claims. Large-scale producers were accused of holding on to vast tracks of land which they were not fully using.
“In the same vein, the committee received complaints from small-scale miners that a lot of land had been placed under exclusive prospecting orders, hence disempowering local communities especially the youth who have limited opportunities for sustainable livelihoods,” Cde Mukaratigwa said.
The committee noted that laws were needed to improve gender equality in the sector and to upgrade the compensation model for relocated communities to empower affected communities and to hold the investors accountable for any social and economic impacts they encounter as a result of mining operations.
The committee also called for the Gold Trade Act, particularly sections that touch on the possession of gold, to be amended after a number of small-scale producers have been arrested for the possession of gold.
“Whilst pronouncements have been made by the Executive that gold be traded on a ‘no questions asked’ basis, this policy has not yet been translated into law. In the process artisanal and small-scale producers remain vulnerable to policy inconsistency and uncertainty,” Cde Mukaratigwa.
Local authorities expressed concern on declining revenues collected through unit tax levied on producers with the advent of highly mechanised equipment. Unit tax was no longer meaningful, since it was levied on the size of the workforce .
“As such a call was made for the review of unit tax so that local authorities benefit from minerals mined within their jurisdiction.
“In the same vein, Fidelity Printers and Refiners was called upon by local authorities to plough back to the communities from the gold proceeds mined in their jurisdiction,” he said.
Cde Mukaratigwa said communities called for disclosure of mining agreements and that they should be written in the local languages as well as in Braille to empower the local community to hold investors accountable for their actions.
Meanwhile, Government has gazetted new mining fees that are up to nine times the old ones and these are quoted in United States dollars although payable in local currency at the prevailing auction exchange rate.
The new fees are contained in Statutory Instrument 44 of 2021 were gazette by Mines and Mining Development last Friday
An ordinary prospecting licence was previously capped at $1 000 is now US$100, which is equivalent to $8 300 at the prevailing auction rate. Registration as an approved prospector is now set at US$4 000 from $20,000 with an application for revocation of forfeiture now US$1 000 from $5 000. A new application fee for a mining lease is now US$2 000 up from $10 000.
The new fee for a special mining lease is now set at US$5 000 from $50 000, while an application for protection against forfeiture is now US$100 up from $500.
An application for a special grant to mine is US$2 000 from $10 000. This increase also includes a custom milling licence of US$2 000 from $25 000 per year and the fine for operating without custom milling licence is US$5 000 up from $25,000.
In a statement on the increase, the Zimbabwe Environment Lawyers Association said the new fee structure could affect artisanal and small scale miners’ contribution to the country’s vision of attaining a US$12 billion mining industry.
“These changes do not distinguish between the large-scale miners and artisanal miners, foreign and domestic sector players. They are just cross around all the different sectors which is a huge challenge in terms of affordability and inclusivity with the artisanal miner likely going to be affected the most.
“Other regional countries such as Zambia have made this aspect quite clear. Zambia mining fees are distinguished between large scale, small scale and artisanal miners which is not the case for Zimbabwe,” reads the statement on the new fees. Herald