By Donald Nyarota (@dtnyarota)
Recurrent disputes over land use between agriculture and mining in Zimbabwe will be a thing of the past as proposed legislation will give the former negotiating rights with miners, an official has said.
Mining which used to have precedence over agriculture in terms of land use will now have to negotiate with land owners before prospecting for minerals, Manicaland Provincial Mining Director, Christopher Dube said.
Dube said the new law will now require prospective miners to seek permission from land owners irrespective of the size of their land, while previously those with land over 100 hectares would only be notified of the intention to prospect.
Dube made these remarks while addressing delegates at a mining indaba organised by Manicaland Miners Association, an affiliate of Zimbabwe Miners Federation, where the issue was raised by small scale miners.
He said the new provisions will seek to limit the recurrent disputes between farmers and miners by ensuring both parties co-exist.
“The coming act will be a blow to miners because previously where mining took precedence over any other land use, this time around it’s the role of the miner to negotiate with the farmer to use the land.
“The new act will now require miners to get permission from the farmer regardless of the size of the farm, we have no input in that because that was what stakeholders said they wanted to do,” he said.
Miners had complained of long standing disputes with some farmers who are turning into illegal miners in the dark of the night, as well as the lack of intervention from traditional leaders.
The issue of land tenure has also been a sticking issue for farmers which have faced hindrance in funding due to lack of security, a situation further worsened by the superiority of mining in land usage.
The new Mines and Mineral Act will also seek to facilitate formalization of small scale miners, while artisanal miners will now be recognized as syndicates and groups.
A public interest organization of legal environmental experts working with small scale miners under Manicaland Miners Association, says the rationale for formalization is the sustainable exploitation of natural resources.
Tinashe Chisaira, a researcher with Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), said for the first time mining legislation will recognize small miners by giving them a formal definition.
He said as an intervention ZELA was educating the small scale miners on the implications of the up and coming Mines and Mineral Bills, as they were major stakeholders in the extractive sector.
“The major achievement in the bill is that for the first time the small scale miners are now defined and recognized in the act, and previously in our old Mines and Minerals Act it was silent, now they are actually defined,” said Chisaira.
He added, “It will also provide for what will be called a Mining Affairs Board where small scale miners associations will pick three representatives, whom they will forward to the Minister of Mines and from there one will be picked to represent them in the board.”
[Donald Nyarota is a reporter based in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Article first published on The New Examiner ]