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Govt lifts EPOs registration for ‘fuelling speculative behaviour’

“By copy of this internal circular you are hereby instructed not to accept any applications for registration of mining titles on the concerned areas in your respective provinces until such time you are advised otherwise through official communication from my office. This directive also applies to all EPOs that are currently active on expiry.”

GOVERNMENT’S move this week to suspend issuing of new exclusive prospecting orders (EPOs) will curb speculation and create a level playing field for investors.

EPOs give exclusive rights for investors to prospect for specified minerals in an identified location in Zimbabwe.

They are issued for three years, although they can be renewed for a maximum of six years.

Several EPOs located in eight of the country’s 10 provinces expired on March 11, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.

The provinces are Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Manicaland, Masvingo and Midlands.

But Pfungwa Kunaka, permanent secretary in the Mines ministry, told directors in the eight provinces to stop accepting new applications until further notice.

In an interview, Kunaka said there had previously been cases where dealers with insider knowledge had capitalised on their privileged positions to file for applications as soon as certain EPOs expired, placing other investors at a disadvantage.

“When they (EPOs) expire, the ground becomes open to pegging and new applications to peg there can flood and swam the offices,” Kunaka said yesterday.

“We have had experiences where some applicants have inside information as to when the EPOs expire. We also need to guard against speculation and disadvantaging others. Note that it is not banning of mine title registration across the board, but rather pegging and registering in the areas affected by the particular EPOs.”

In his circular to provincial mining directors, Kunaka said: “By copy of this internal circular you are hereby instructed not to accept any applications for registration of mining titles on the concerned areas in your respective provinces until such time you are advised otherwise through official communication from my office. This directive also applies to all EPOs that are currently active on expiry.”

Over the years, authorities have stressed that some EPO holders were involved in speculation.

Kunaka said in the interview with the Independent the moratorium was expected to restore order.

The mining industry is one of Zimbabwe’s major economic sectors, accounting for more than 75% of foreign exchange earnings, as well as contributing significantly to government revenues, employment, and infrastructure development.

Small to medium-scale miners have appealed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to scrap the issuance of EPOs, amid widespread reports that they were being abused by a few elites. – (The Independent)

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