By Anna Chibamu
SENATE President Mabel Chinomona on Thursday confronted Mines and Mining Development deputy minister Polite Kambamura over the delays in bringing up the Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill to Parliament.
According to Chinomona, it has taken almost five years for the bill to be tabled. The bill is envisaged ton help curbing rampant and indiscriminate mining activities, mainly involving small-scale miners who are ravaging land across the country.
They sometimes encroach into farmlands, wildlife reserves and even towns and inhibited settlements.
“You said the amendment to this act is being worked on. When do you think this bill will be passed into law because it is almost five years and this issue has been coming to parliament yet there seems to be no progress,” Chinomona querried.
She was moderating the question and answer session by senators regarding government policy on mining of gold at people’s homesteads and farms.
Kambamura responded by saying: “Government policy does not allow someone to go and mine gold at someone’s homestead. One is only allowed to mine after getting permission from the ministry of Mines. After getting that permission, the ministry goes and inspects whether that place is fit for mining activities.”
“They have to put into consideration whether it is someone’s homestead or field; is there any infrastructure like schools, shops, or dams. After that, the person is then given permission or a mining licence. Before they start mining activities, they are supposed to interact first with the local stakeholders. They should also be able to get an EIA before they start exploring from the Environmental Management Agency so that they will not disturb the environment,” he said.
However, senator Morgan Femai argued: “These people are coming with documentation and that includes demarcations that cover homesteads and fields. They are allowed to start mining. Is that what the law says? Can someone go and start mining with all the legal documentation but mining at someone’s homestead or kraal?”
Kambamura then requested for Femai to put his questions in writing if there was a particular place where the alleged mining activities were happening.
“May the Hon. Senator please put it in writing so that we investigate what is happening because the Constitution does not allow that. The Constitution says in terms of minerals exploration; if you have less than 100 hectares of land, nobody is allowed to come and peg at your field without permission from you. But if you have more than 100 hectares of land, someone is allowed to come and peg as long as they do not peg on cultivated land. In addition, they are not allowed to come and start mining close to houses. They are supposed to mine at least 400 metres away from the homesteads,” Kambamura said.
President of the chiefs’ council Fortune Charumbira concurred with other senators.
“Minister, what you are saying is not what your workers do. What you are saying and what is transpiring on the ground is not the same. Last week under Sabhuku (headman) Tete in my homestead, there was exploration and digging and that person had documentation. You need to work with your officers to ensure that what you are saying happens on the ground,” Chief Charumbira highlighted.
Kambamura responded by saying: “I agree that there are some officers who may transgress against the Constitution. We need to reach out to people in provinces and meet the local leadership as well as the ministry of Agriculture officials so that we settle this issue before the law is aligned.”