EPOs pushing small scale miners from mining business – MPs

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By Anna Chibamu

PARLIAMENT’S Mines committee members say the introduction of Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) has resulted in high leakages of the gold output as well pushing Small Scale Miners from pegging title space.

Government, through the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, gazetted about 40 EPOs across the country following applications from prospective foreign and local investors. The mining affairs board made a determination for the issuance of the all EPOs.

The small-scale miners however had objected to the issuance of the EPOs to potential mining investors.

During a committee meeting to hear oral evidence from ministry officials Monday, it emerged the EPOs had not been the best solution to resolve the mining wrangle in the country where fights in disused mines and claims are a common occurrence.

Government has closed down several mines around the country owing to losses by most of them.

Committee members from both opposition and ruling parties were against the EPOs saying those with licences were the ones causing gold leakages resulting in low gold quantities being sold to government through Fidelity.

MDC Mbizo MP, Settlement Chikwinya sought answers from the ministry.

“Small scale miners can no longer peg any space for title because all the provincial space is covered under EPOs. Can you highlight the mechanism under which you reached to peg all the provincial space prompting an outcry from small scale mines?

“Government is now the sole player in the extraction of gold and has excluded local people who are suffering.”

Zanu PF Magunje MP, Cesil Kashiri also told the Mines Secretary Onesimo Mazai Moyo that the EPOs have been causing leakages.

Committee chairperson, Edmund Mkaratigwa queried why there were conflicts in the mining sector even though the legal framework was in place, with a sharp decline in gold output.

“Why do we have disputes when the legal framework is in clear?” he said.

The Mines secretary however attributed the decline in gold production to several reasons which include electricity shortages, delays in receipt of gold proceeds by Fidelity to suppliers, foreign currency shortages, lack of access to finance and difficulties to raise long-term capital.

On its part, Transparency International Zimbabwe pointed out that policy inconsistencies were major challenges and urged parliament to speed up alignment of laws.

TIZ told the committee that the country has 500 000 small scale miners and out of this figure 300 000 are into gold mining.