New mines law ready by end of March

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Minister Winston Chitando

Government says it will finalise the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill into an Act by the end of March this year, with former Mines and Mining Development Minister, Walter Chidhakwa, partly blamed for delaying the Bill’s passage through Parliament.

The proposed legislation, currently before Parliament and awaiting its second reading, is likely to undergo more changes to refine it, amid revelations a meeting was held recently for stakeholders to further input.

Mining is strategic to Zimbabwe’s economy, as it generates over 50 percent of the country’s annual foreign exchange earnings. Zimbabwe has over 40 mineral occurrences, including gold, diamonds and platinum.

Zimbabwe has the world’s second largest known deposits of platinum (PGMs) as well as the world’s fifth largest known reserves of lithium, which occurs along the country’s reputed mineral rich Great Dyke.

While the Bill failed to sail through Parliament partly due to certain contentious issues, it emerged former Minister Chidhakwa, also delayed returning it to Parliament for further debate.

The Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill also failed to sail through legislature over a number of issues raised during public hearings on the law. It was then suggested fresh public consultations needed to be done.

This was despite the fact that the proposed law received a clean bill of health from the Parliamentary Legal Committee. Parliament’s energy and mines committee, however, later sought further discussion on disputed areas.

This Bill was started in 2015, but the previous mines minister never got to make the ministerial speech to open its second reading debate in Parliament.

It is, however, expected the Bill will be completed in the current sitting of the National Assembly largely due to the new work ethic of ‘business unusual’ under the new dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando, told Business Weekly on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba held in Cape Town this week that the Bill will become law by March 31, 2018.

“Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Energy, officials from the ministry and industry representatives (small-scale miners and Chamber of Mines), we retreated for three days where the whole purpose was to go through Mines and Minerals Act looking into what the issues are.

“The target is that by 31st March the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill will be law,” the minister said without discussing what had delayed the Bill. However, he hinted the legislation could have additions or subtractions.

The amendments are intended to promote investment as well as sustainable development. Further, Government wanted the new version of the law to guarantee security of tenure and aid efficient land utilisation.

Further, it was felt that the law must provide for optimal benefit by Zimbabweans while it should also reflect modern governance and administration of mineral resources across the world.

Government started the process of amending the current Act in 2015 following strong lobbying from civil society calls and research institutions that the 1961 Mines and Minerals Act, was now archaic and out of sync with the situation prevailing in Zimbabwe’s mining sector today.

For instance, the argument included the fact that when the Act was enacted, artisanal mining was not common given the many alternative options for employment while minerals such as platinum were not key.

But while Zimbabwe’s current Mines and Minerals Act is regarded one of the best in the world and the expectation being that amendments would further make it more investor friendly, critics say some of the new provisions were in fact retrogressive or even repressive.

For instance, there were proposed provisions giving exclusive power over mining areas and their use to the ministry, which delegated the regulatory roles of other key institutions such as those that look at the issues of management, safe use and preservation of the environment.

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