'Mines Bill sidelines prospectors'

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Prospectors Association (ZPA) has raised objections to the Minerals Amendment Bill saying if passed, it will severely affect their operations.

They have since petitioned Parliament to present their objections to the bill, which is in its second reading.

ZPA president Samson Dzingwe said they had presented their objections through public hearings as individuals, but were now escalating their objections as an association.

In their petition addressed to the clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda, ZPA seek an urgent meeting with chairperson of the portfolio committee of Mines Temba Mliswa.

“Approved prospectors (peggers) know the Mines and Minerals Act, they prospect and discover minerals for their clients, they investigate the status of an area of interest and ascertain if it is open for pegging. They help define the extent of the registered mines by logging the correct coordinates of the mining claims.

“Also, the approved prospectors represent the interests of prospective and active miners, usually to the irritation on the Mines Office in instances where the Mines Office tries to infringe on the rights of the miner.

“The Bill changes approved prospectors (peggers) to Staking Agents and provides no framework for their operation. With the calling and affinity for mineral research and exploration, the Approved Prospector attracts investors to unlock mineral value.

“The bill was written without the consultation of approved prospectors as stockholders. The bill must incorporate the approved prospectors who help the office to verify distance from arable land, buildings, dip tanks, unregistered  graves, boreholes, water aquifers etc,” said Dzingwe.

ZPA is also worried the bill proposes to confer a lot of discretionary power to the Cadastral Registrar as they can reject a mine registration application on the basis of their view that the applicant is not “fit and proper.”

“Applications from less privileged and disabled people are therefore less likely to be successful,” Dzingwe said.

“Furthermore, the bill provides for the Cadastral Registrar to reject an application after publication in the press. It is not difficult to see the potential for corruption in the registration process.”

He said they might need to incorporate some of their prospecting laws if their system are to serve their purpose well.  ZPA also raised objection on the registration procedure of buying a licence with specific coordinates.

“The registration procedure of buying a licence with specific coordinates is unduly restrictive as it means that people are not afforded the opportunity to prospect such that if one does not find minerals in the grid, he or she will have lost their registration fee — this is daylight robbery.

“The prospecting licence bought in any province used to provide for prospecting in the whole country, but was illegally restricted to the province in which it was bought. As if that is not bad enough, this bill seeks to further restrict prospecting to a grid of a square km.

“The proposed grid system is not applicable since mineral occurrence has nothing to do with the grid but everything to do with mineralisation. This provision disallows prospecting before registration.

“A miner needs to have latitude to peg for a mineral following the existence of the mineral. The existing provision of mining rights based on discovery should remain sacrosanct.”

Amendments in the Bill, which seeks to criminalise riverbed mining with penalties including imprisonment, have also faced stiff opposition from small-scale and artisanal miners.

Section 58 of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill stipulates that no person can conduct riverbed mining unless if it is done in partnership with government.

However, there have been no objections to the clause prohibiting child labour.

The Mines and Minerals Bill proposes to institute a “use it or lose it” policy with regards to exclusive prospecting licences.

It provides that every exclusive prospecting licence shall be valid for a period of 12 months.

The Mines and Minerals Bill introduces the concept of strict liability for directors of mining companies for acts that mining company would have conducted and that leads to environmental pollution and degradation.

Apart from the commitment to ensure balance in the Mines and Mineral Bill, it is not clear  how gender considerations and specifically women’s participation in the mining sector will be achieved.

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