TENDAI BHEBE IN BULAWAYO
Government should finalise the amendment process of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill to create a proper legal framework that helps curb conflicts and address other sticking issues in the sector, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has said.
In 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa ordered the Bill to be taken back to Parliament for further scrutiny after miners cried foul that they were left out in the crafting process.
ZELA programmes officer Nobuhle Chikuni said the government has to speed up the process as this would help in the growth of the economy.
“The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development has a backlog in terms of processing of applications for mining claims. As a result of the huge influx of people into the sector, conflicts were bound to happen. Criminals were also attracted by the lure of gold.
“Conflicts over mining claims also resulted from the increased number of people joining the sector,” Chikuni said.
She added: “Since digging gold is almost synonymous with US$ earnings, more and more people have been attracted to artisanal and the small scale-mining sector as they can easily sell their gold on the black market and get paid in US$.
“This has also attracted criminals and organised gangs into the sector who easily go around mining areas harassing and robbing miners.”
Illegal gold miners in Gwanda are constantly involved in machete fights as turf wars over shafts continue to rise in the mining town.
Chikuni said the mining rights award and title administration system was fuelling disputes and the old system being used was prone to manipulation and mistakes leading to double allocation of mining claims.
This has fuelled disputes especially when gold rushes occur with two or more people claiming ownership over the same gold mining claim.
“The disputes can easily spill into violence as people fight to secure access to prolific gold areas.
“The maps currently being used to allocate claims are old and tattered, in some cases, officials have to estimate boundaries resulting in double pegging or boundary disputes.
“Such is the case in Chinhoyi and Midlands Province (Gweru office) among others. Farmer-Miner conflicts or land use conflict are rampant,” she said.
Miners, Chikuni said, were leaving behind a number of open pits that have resulted in the loss of livestock and in some cases, children allegedly falling into the pits.
“The traditional views in the mining sector have been that mining supersedes all others forms of land use.
“In the event, a mineral is found on one’s land their usufruct rights are disregarded. This has left many farmers or landowners who have lost land and property disgruntled and, in some cases, has accelerated to violence,” she said.