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Overregulation strangling small scale miners

Ngezi-Zvishavane MP John Holder’s speech to the National Assembly on October 1, while contributing to the debate on the President’s speech at the opening of the first session of the Eighth Parliament on September 17:
Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. First of all, I would like to congratulate His Excellency the President R. G. Mugabe on his resounding victory. I would also like to congratulate you on your election as Speaker of this House.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I quote the President’s speech, “The mining sector is poised to play a greater catalytic role in the country.” However, how is this going to be when there are problems being faced by the mines?
Government has made the apple tree tall for the small scale miners to reach the apples yet they expect the small scale miners to give a piece to the fiscus. Our mining problems are premised on mining policies that are ‘one size fits all’ policy – whether big or small.
Secondly, the Environmental Management Agency’s approach to environmental issues is a bit like draining a pool to get fish instead of adding water to the pool which would guarantee continued supply. EMA is complex and expensive and somehow the requirements defy logic and are non-practical at all.
While miners are expected to pay these big amounts before even starting, they face punitive fines. EMA is not involved in any environmental mitigation programmes which makes me wonder what they are really about – revenue collection.
Proposed geo-membranes for slime dams are complex and expensive – they serve no practical purpose. There is lack of clarity on who is the authority in the mining industry enforcing regulations as police, EMA officials, mining officials all descend on miners. It is of no wonder that there are high levels of corruption and bribes.
On gold pricing, the amount taken by Fidelity Printers is 15% comprising of 6% commission; 7% royalty; 2% presumptive tax – it is too high. I equate this to the killing of the hen to extract the egg.
There is also the issue of lack of trust. When authorities visit the mines; they already have preconceived ideas that the miner is breaking the law. So, their visits are more of faults and witch-hunting than value adding to the miners.
There is also lack of support in the Department of Mines as it is seriously under-staffed. In Masvingo Mining District, there is only one Regional Mining Engineer in the Inspectorate Department and this affects the level and quality of service offered to the miners in the District.Advertisement

Mining is capital intensive and has very long payback periods. This has caused some miners to be seasonal miners who only mine when they get some cash and also promote high-grade cheap-to-mine deposits which lack consistency and continuity, whilst paying no attention to environmental issues.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I propose that the above problem should be reviewed through policy legislation. The mining legislation and policy must be revised and simplified sections to cover small scale mining. The policy should be supportive of the investment and encourage the reward.
Environmental impact assessments and environmental management regulations should be simple, supportive of investment and affordable by small scale miners. The levy charged on the Project Cost is too much and should be limited to the cost elements with Environmental Impact Assessments only. Geo-membranes should be recommended in areas that are prone to underground water pollution only.
The Environmental Management Agency should assist in the procurement of these membranes as they are not locally available. The Environmental Management Agency should have environmental mitigation programmes as their inspectors should give environmental management advice rather than to witch-hunt. The same applies to inspectors from other Government Departments. Their visits should be value adding to the miners and miners should not be afraid of their visits.
There should be clarity on Mining and Mines Inspections and there should be cooperation on the establishment of a Mining Inspectorate which inspects the mines once a year and compiles reports, as opposed to numerous inspections by numerous departments for the same things.
Fidelity Printers and Refineries should offer incentives rather than endless commissions and royalties delivered on gold.
The Statutory Government arms and departments like ZIMRA, NSSA, EMA should not view miners as law breakers but as sources of revenue and must help in nurturing the industry through a supportive rather than vindictive approach.
Funding the government, through the Ministry of Mines, to make available, through a vehicle which we used to have, like DDF, for provision of mining equipment which small scale miners can hire for a fee on production or share basis. This will assist in consistency in mineral production and will earn government some revenue.