By Byron Adonis Mutingwende (@BAMutingwende)
Among the recommendations was for the law to contain provisions on the relocation of communities including upholding the rights of community members in mining communities as well as providing for environmental protection.
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has outlined a raft of recommendations for Zimbabwe’s Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill.
ZELA is a public interest environmental law organisation, working with lawyers, economists, political analysts, and journalists for the protection and conservation of the environment.
Addressing journalists at a media sensitisation workshop that was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Harare on Thursday, Tinashe Chisaira, an environmental lawyer and researcher with ZELA said that the Bill sought to amend the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05 which was generally considered to be an archaic piece of legislation.
Chisaira said that the Bill raised a number of questions that required attention by relevant stakeholders. These include issues around the separation of powers in granting title; the mineral licensing regime’s competitiveness and clarity; whether Parliamentary can veto a granted right or title; and assess if the law addresses the rights of small-scale and artisanal miners, informing them about both their rights and responsibilities.
Among ZELA’s recommendations was for the law to contain provisions on the relocation of communities including upholding the rights of community members in mining communities as well as providing for environmental protection.
“Section 19 talks about the “use it or lose it” principle and the first come first served basis. This has its shortcomings and there is the need for the introduction of the competitive bidding process for exploration licences that make competitive tenders the norm.
“It is also important to note that there are many mining titles granting authorities which include the Cadastre Registrar or Mining Commissioner, the Minister of Mines and the President among others. There are also unclear provisions and terms to be met. An example of such an unclear provision is the National interest provision for granting of Exclusive Exploration Licence,” Chisaira said.
He said that a split licencing regime involving the Cadastre Registrar, the Mining Affairs Board and the President presents administrative challenges and leaves loopholes for manipulation, corruption and the ineffective use of already scarce resources.
Chisaira also took a dig at the composition of the Mining Affairs Board which comprises the Secretary of Mines, Principal Directors, Director of the Geological Survey, two Ministry officials, six others composed of two from the Chamber of Mines, one small-scale miner, one farmer and one representative from Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe and one other professional.
He said there was a need to open up for other persons not members of the Board to sit in Committees. These could come from civil society, the media and labour unions, he said, alluding to Ghana where a committee was established to monitor the management of oil revenue.
Section 5A of the Bill speaks on minerals deemed strategic on account of their importance to economic, social, industrial, and security development of the country. However, unique conditions as may be provided for under this Act shall attach to the exploration, ownership, exploitation, beneficiation, marketing and development of the minerals – non-exclusive right to mine strategic minerals.
ZELA said that free, prior and informed consent on relocations of communities affected by mining activities was of paramount importance. The environmental lawyers urged the Rural District Councils to express the communities’ voice and concerns on many issues including relocations related to communal land.
Apart from the operational and mine development commitments, ZELA said that the proposed legislation must contain provisions for local content by encouraging local procurement, local employment and infrastructure development.
Section 6 of the Bill that deals with the establishment of a Mining Affairs Board provides for 50% representation of women on the Board. However, besides this provision, ZELA said that there seems to be nothing to proactively promote women’s participation in the mining sector.
They added that there was a need to pay special attention to artisanal and small-scale mining given its centrality to gold production in the country, the levels of employment in the sector and the need to effectively regulate it.
[Byron Adonis Mutingwende is a communicator, social media expert, public relations practitioner and journalist.Article first published on Spiked]