12 June 2021
Compiled by Cosmas Sunguro (ZIDAWU)
Transparency and Accountability have been topical issues in mineral resource rich communities for quite some time.
Transparency and accountability come with a need to a commitment from the communities, mining companies and the government. With the government working towards the realization of the 12 billion economies by 2023, transparency remains an important aspect. It is in Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association’s (ZELA) quest to see the realization of improved mineral resources governance. Through its several engagements and capacity building meetings with local communities, Marange community members were motivated to engage the organisation so that it raises awareness about the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA). The initial workshop to brainstorm the program was held at Musangano Lodge in Mutare from the 10th – 11th of June 2021.
Speaking at the occasion, ZELA’s Fadzai Midzi chronicled the objectives of IRMA and highlighted that it was critical to discuss; How we can effectively utilize IRMA to encourage Responsible Mining, Community Benefit Schemes performance and Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOT). Lastly, how to come up with a community led audit, drawing lessons from the UNKI mine IRMA audit using the available information.
One would then wonder why IRMA, when Zimbabwe has its own accounting standards and audits that have been done. In the engagements with Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), many a times the communities have been told that some of their requests could not be met since the company is not selling diamonds due to COVID-19. This has somehow derailed the socio-economic development of mining communities and the nation at large bringing uncertainty on the fulfillment of our vision as a nation. However, IRMA has its processes and standards developed by various stakeholders in different countries with the mission of protecting people and the environment directly affected by mining. It also aims at striking a balance between business interests of the company and those of communities. Hence, a company that voluntarily surrenders itself to be audited under IRMA will have created value for itself through accessing market benefit internationally. Thus, once ZCDC is audited against this standard for example, it will appear on the international responsible mining map and will be able to sell its diamonds on the international market and all the struggle for market might be a thing of the past.
Furthermore, as we implement the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) as a nation the second principle envisages that as the nation makes headway with international re-engagements, national institutions should be capacitated to create an enabling environment critical for transformative economic growth. Thus, as communities we believe that if mining companies, especially ZCDC are audited against the IRMA standard, it will create the desired image and credibility as IRMA provides credible information and assurance that the minerals are extracted responsibly to interested buyers. This may also attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and open markets internationally for it and contributing in trading diamonds at competitive prices.
Also, as IRMA brings all stakeholders in the mining supply chain on the responsible mining map, having our mining site audited according to its standard will open avenues for capacitation in value addition and beneficiation. Thus, promoting the NDS1 principle to accelerate and enhancing investment in mining towards exploration, value addition and beneficiation of minerals. It would also show the nation’s commitment to transparency and accountability as provided in S298 (1)(a) of the Constitution which provides that, “ there must be transparency and accountability in financial matters”.
A closer look to IRMA standard’s principles which are Environmental responsibility, social responsibility, Business integrity and planning and managing positive legacies indicates that it actually uses the available legal frameworks, policies and practices within the country. Our constitution, section 73 guarantees right to Safe and Clean environment which the IRMA Environmental responsibility aims to achieve by checking if mining companies are complying with local and international environmental laws. Further, section (13) 4 provides for community beneficiation from their natural resources, read together with the mission of IRMA code which is to protect mining communities and environment. Thus, IRMA is more of a complementary to existing laws and not necessarily a foreign legal phenomenon or harmful in any way.
Given the above information, IRMA is more of checking legal compliance of a mining with regards to the local existing laws within the respective principle. It is of paramount importance to note that closer at home we have Unki mine who have been audited by IRMA and they have gone through the process. Whatever the challenges that may arise, we still have greater chances of getting credible lessons from the Unki Mine audit.
ZIDAWU Information Desk
A member of PWYP ZIMBABWE.