Co-authored by Sandra Musonzah and Billian Matambo
Touching base with reality, the silence on the Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill leaves us wondering whether it is ready or long forgotten? The Bill does carry strategic means to unlock the government’s potential to achieve the 12 billion mining industry and greater control over mining hurdles. To jog your memory, Zimbabwe is in the process of reforming the Mines and Minerals Act through the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill. To summarize, the Mines and Minerals Act of 1961 is an outdated legislation with unlimited challenges which have been affecting the ability of the nation to realize maximum mineral resource beneficiation especially for the locals who are operating as artisanal and small-scale miners (ASMers).
The government of Zimbabwe overtime has made various attempts to amend the mining regulatory regime targeting the Mines and Mineral Act these efforts have not led to a final product being gazzeted. The Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill seems to have lost its momentum after years of constantly amending and strengthening it to resolve predominant challenges within the mining value chain. Since 2012 when the Mines and Minerals Act amendment started, the government have preferred to address some of the highlighted mining challenges using alternative means such as through policies and statutory instruments rather than endorsing the proposed Bill into effect. Finalisation and ensuring that the citizens ‘aspirations are incorporated in the Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill will assist in defining shared value and national vision for the mining sector. By addressing cross cutting issues within the extractive sector, set benchmarks within important stakeholders (like community-based organisation, civil society organisation, traditional leaders) to safeguard against unsustainable mining and promote coherence in the laws, policies and the implementing institutions.
Progress in the Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill
Further, the current talk show focus in the mining industry corridors has shifted from the ‘Bill’ to the Statutory Instruments to formalize artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). The soon to be gazetted Statutory Instrument aspires to ensure ASM are registered and enhance their opportunities to benefit from state resources. A great stride and we acknowledge Government’s efforts to some extent in their work to curb resource leakages and environmental challenges which are prevalent. Yet still the formalization of the ASM alone leaves a lot of loopholes to be adequate as we race towards the 12Billion economy, we expect comprehensive legal regulatory frameworks to address ASM related challenges. As community-based organisation (CBOs) we are surprised and shocked about Reserve Bank Governor Dr. John Mangudya ‘s comments this week that a statutory instrument shall be governing requirements for registration of ASM which is currently being crafted. Seems we have already forgotten the Bill which should also recognize ASM. The loophole which still needs to be addressed is that the Mines and Minerals Act does not give recognition to ASM an issue that should be addressed.
Importantly, the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development must not cease pushing for the anticipated legal reforms enshrined within the Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill which also acknowledge ASMers as an important stakeholder to development discourse. The mining bill will also for the first time officially recognize small-scale miners, who produce more than 40 percent of Zimbabwe’s gold output, meaning that their operations will no longer be considered illegal. In addition, for ASM activities to efficiently contribute to sustainable development, they must be integrated into the formal economic system and with a stipulated Constitution legal recognition of ASM in Zimbabwe. The overwhelming informality of the ASM in Zimbabwe requires comprehensive reforms, and definitely the Statutory to be complemented with the Bill.
As resource rich communities, we advocate that the new amendment bill formalizes ASMers. This is going to benefit all relevant stakeholders in the whole mineral value chain. Formalization of ASM is going to
1) Close leakages such as illicit financial flows, since the markets will be open to every miner yet still offering competitive prices.
2) The ASM sector is outsmarting Large Scale Miners by almost 100% in terms of the gold delivered to Fidelity Printers and Refiners. This simply means that the country could earn more if legislative reforms are put in place to address formalization of ASM.
3) With formalization comes responsible sustainable mining and sourcing in the ASM sector that will save both the environment and hence healthy and safety of the ASMers who are losing their lives through unmonitored irresponsible mining.
It is also saddening to note that artisanal miners are also under threat from machete gangs especially in the Midlands Province and Mazowe District attributed mainly to claim disputes. We need laws that will permit decentralization of gold buying schemes. We call for the finalization of the Bill since it has the ultimate answer of safeguarding the miners from being used by allegedly complicit powerful politicians who are inciting them against each other through sponsoring machete gangs. The 100 tonne gold output underpinned with the12 Billion target by 2023 can be achieved if authorities put in place friendly mining policies and bills.