Home » Industry » Lack of Policy Co-Ordination Costing Small Scale Miners

MR Eric Maenga is ready to risk all and sundry for the precious “thing”. Like many other artisanal miners popularly known as “makorokoza” Mr Maenga operates in the Tongogara area outside Shurugwi where he rummages the earth for gold.

The attendant risks include arrest, and at worst death in their line of operations.

“We are aware of the risks involved, but we are ready. We have to get that precious mineral,” said Mr Maenga.

Some of the disused mines the artisanal miners frequent go as deep as 500 metres. They do not have even basic mining equipment let alone the know how.

All this, however, does not deter Mr Maenga and his troops.

“Life itself is a risk. Sitting at home and mourning over the economy is greater risk than going 500 metres to find gold. That way I can feed my family,” said another mukorokoza.

While they dig everywhere, environmental issues relating to land rehabilitation and waste management come to the fore.

But beyond these, there are many more issues around small scale mining as a visit to areas around Mapanzure in Zvishavane, Shurugwi and Tongogara highlighted.

Small scale miners have identified about 27 issues they hope to flag early next month at a conference to be attended by Government and other stakeholders.

Government through the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, small scale miners, Environmental Management Authority and other sector stakeholders are expected to brainstorm solutions to the thorny issues affecting the up and coming miners. The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Fidelity and other Government institutions with a relation to mining are also expected to attend.

Zimbabwe Miners Federation technical director Mr Phillimon Mubata said in an interview in Gweru last week that issues to feature at the stakeholders meeting will include efforts to make small scale mining environment conducive.

Small scale miners are expected to highlight issues relating to policy coordination between Government departments. The miners feel that, for instance, they could be paying double for similar services as they pay for mining claims to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and to Rural District Councils for land use.

Miners pay $100 per annum to the Ministry for mining claims while at the same time RDCs also charge land tax. They say that lack of policy coordination could be costing small scale miners. Another case in point is where the tax collector fails to recognise some sections of the Mines and Minerals Act.

Small scale miners are also lobbying Government for the urgent release of the $100 million set aside for the sector last year.

They want Government to assist with mechanisation the same way it helps farmers.

“We have submitted data that was required for us to access the $100 million set aside for the sector but that fund has not been disbursed yet,” said Mr Mubata.

Zimbabwe Miners Federation is the umbrella body for small scale miners.

EMA will feature prominently over what miners say are “unrealistic” fees charged by the authority.

As the watchdog on the environment, EMA has set basic standards in a bid to minimise damage to the environment. EMA sets deterrent fines for those found wanting.

This however is met by a storm of resistance. Players in the mining sector argue that EMA is milking the situation.

For instance, EMA requires an environmental impact assessment certificate before mining activities commence. The EIA report can only be compiled by EMA registered contractors and charges can go up to $3 000. The authority also issues two other certificates relating to hazardous chemicals and waste management. The fees for the certificates are also high deterring SMEs from formal mining activities as they cannot raise the fees before mining.

As the small scale miners are battling the EMA fees, rural district councils also raise invoices for land tax. One miner said that he was hit with a $27 000 invoice for the mining claims in Kwekwe district even before commencing production.

“These people (EMA) are milking small scale miners. They can even shut down a mining operation if you do not pay want they demand.

The sad thing is that their charges and penalties are not defined but they just plant figures. If there’s degradation on your operations without land rehabilitation plans they can just demand $7 000 or $5000 how they come up with those rates, we don’t know,” said Mr Mubata.

“Same applies with RDCs for land use they charge fees which are killing us. They are even suing small scale miners over non-payment,” he said.

Miners feel EMA should do more than just being a “milking” agent.

“To farmers, EMA offers land conservation programmes but is not assisting small scale miners with such programmes. The ministry has already recognized small scale miners and offers packages for SMEs but not with EMA and Zimra,” said the federation’s spokesperson, Mr Dosman Mangisi.

The World Bank forecasts the mining sector to generate over $11 billion in revenue and to contribute about $1,7 billion to Treasury by 2018. Small scale miners are expected to play a key role if capacitated.

However, the sector’s contribution to the economy comes at a huge cost, which if not attended to will lead to a reversal of the gains realised from the sale of precious minerals.

The visit to Mapanzure, Tongogara and Shurugwi showed that while major mining activities are taking shape central Government, miners, environmental experts and local Government should tackle environmental challenges before the country degenerates into a land of pits and dumps.

Disused mine shafts, dumps associated with chrome mining are a sorry sight while miners play cat-and-mouse with environmental authorities and local government.

Some creative small scale miners in the gold sector have adopted a new concept where they subcontract artisanal miners to mine on their claims. The miners then get a share of the proceeds after processing of the gold.

This way, the miners save on the cost of mining and concentrate on processing the product. It also helps keeping the artisanal miners in check regarding land rehabilitation.

Mr Mubata runs such an operation at his mine in Tongogara and has a full time miner who works with the artisanal miners to ensure compliance with regulatory and environmental issues.

Source : The Herald