Civil society calls for stricter mining laws

MUTARE - Civil society groups focusing on the extractive sector in Manicaland Province have called on government to carry out geological surveys before granting exploration and mining licences to companies.

The Centre for Research and Development (CRD) and the Zimbabwe Natural Resources Dialogue (ZNRDF)  said in a joint statement yesterday they have noted with concern that government continued to make new appointments to the ZMDC and Mining Affairs Board (MAB) in the absence of new mining legislation.

Freeman Bhoso, the director of ZNRDF, said there was need for transparency in the issuance of exploration licences.

“The government has once again made fresh appointments to the ZMDC and MAB in the absence of  new legislation and administrative framework embedded in transparency and accountability,” Bhoso said.

The government last month announced it had granted 12 mining exploration licences to 11 companies in a bid to enhance mineral exploration in the country.

Of the 12 mining exploration licences approved by President Robert Mugabe on March 13, eight are special grants given to eight companies for coal exploration in Masvingo, Bulawayo and Gweru while four are exclusive prospecting orders (EPOs) for three companies that will carry out exploration in Bulawayo, Gweru and Kadoma.

Mines and Mineral Development minister Walter Chidhakwa said the granting of the licences was a milestone since the last EPOs were granted 12 years ago.

He announced new board appointments to the Mining Promotion Corporation, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and the MAB.

The Mining Promotion Corporation will be chaired by the permanent secretary for Mines and Mining Development, Francis Gudyanga in the interim and deputised by David Murangari, a geologist and director for Bindura Nickel Corporation.

The Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation will be chaired by David Murangari and deputised by Edward Mashiringwani, an economist and board chair for Fidelity Printers and Refiners.

Gudyanga will also head MAB in accordance with the Mines and Minerals Act, and deputised by the principal director in the ministry of Mines and Mining Development.

Bhoso said the admission by the government that it had been prejudiced of billions of dollars in potential revenue due to unregulated mining practices compels civil society to demand that  Chidhakwa comes up with a comprehensive mining development framework that is clear and upholds the fundamental rights of communities left vulnerable by mining activities.

“Civil society is aware that the appointments of the new mining boards alone will not bring about the desired outcome if it is not underpinned by stringent accountability measures,” Bhoso said.

“It is, therefore, imperative for the ministry of Mines and Mining Development to expeditiously take the lead in re-aligning mineral policies and close existing gaps that have foreclosed acceptable remittances of the mining proceed to treasury.”

The CSOs said they were worried Mugabe granted 12 mining exploring licences, including four exclusive prospecting orders to private companies, in spite of poor monitoring mechanisms on the part of the government that has seen such companies repeatedly plundering mineral resources and destroying the environment for years.

Bhoso said civil society in Manicaland Province demand that the government immediately capacitate and operationalise the mining promotion corporation and the geological survey unit to effectively execute their mandate and ascertain the diversity and value of the mineral resource.

James Mupfumi of the CRD said failure by government to disclose beneficial ownership in the mining sector while conspiring with mining companies to either deny or divert proceeds for community ownership schemes was proof that indigenisation laws were crafted to benefit political elites.

“The government has received pittances in the last three Marange diamonds sales because politically-connected elites grabbed controlling stakes in the country’s mineral wealth under the banner of indigenisation,” Mupfumi said.

He said civil society was surprised that a “gentleman’s agreement” was forged over proceeds to Zimunya-Marange Community Ownership Scheme with diamond mining companies in Marange.

“The nation seethes with anger to watch communities that have been impoverished by diamond mining activities in Marange, including desperate families at ARDA Transau whose rights have been violated due to forced dislocations, without alternative sources of livelihoods,” Mupfumi said

He said CSOs were making a compassionate plea to the ministry of Mines and Mining Development to incorporate community rights in the new mineral policy and ensure that communities are represented on the MAB.

“As civil society, we implore the ministry of Mines to formulate policies that compel mining companies to undertake sustainable social accountability projects in promoting environmental, economic, social and cultural rights of communities living in resource rich areas,” said Mupfumi.

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