Government has allayed fears that declaring certain minerals strategic under the proposed Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill would scare away potential investors who might view their investments as not being safe.
Mines and Mining Development permanent secretary, Mr Pfungwa Kunaka on Thursday told the Edmond Mkaratigwa led Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development public hearing on the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill in Bulawayo that the government is merely safeguarding the natural resources from being exploited without the country benefiting.
He told participants that under the bill, nuclear energy source materials, mineral oils, lithium, diamonds, rare earth minerals, copper, gaseous hydrocarbons, coal and nickel have been classified as strategic.
“What we are looking at is a development where we have other investors coming in into gas and oil, something that was not there.
“Lithium was not as popular as it is now. As a Government, we want to safeguard the minerals which are strategic and the areas they are located,” said Mr Kunaka.
“No-one should panic, we are doing this responsibly,” he said “We just want to do it responsibly and ensure that benefits accrue to the nation and not just the company prospecting and mining.”
Making special reference to diamonds which are part of the strategic mineral category, he said the Government was to prevent a 2010 scenario where the precious gem was exploited with little benefit to the fiscas.
He said if a miner discovers a rare mineral in his or her mining claim, they should notify the Government. However, that would not mean they would be pushed out of the mining claim.
Instead, a workable strategy or partnership will be put in place.
“This provision is important for us as a country and let’s safeguard these new areas that are strategic,” he stressed.
The bill defines a strategic mineral as any mineral deemed strategic by virtue of its importance to the economic, social, and industrial or security interests of Zimbabwe.
As such, if the minister of mines, after consultation with the Mining Affairs Board, deems that any mineral is a strategic mineral, he or she, with the approval of the President, shall by order published in the Gazette, designate such mineral to be a strategic mineral and may, in like manner, revoke such declaration.
The declaration order may apply to the whole of Zimbabwe or to any specified part and may be made for a definite or indefinite period of time.
It adds that any person wishing to mine such a mineral may only obtain a special mining lease or special grant.
The bill further says before obtaining such special mining lease or special grant, the person concerned must enter into an agreement with the Minister concerning on the formation of a company or other special investment vehicle in the name of which the special mining lease or special grant shall be held, and in which the State has a defined interest or stake.
Its adds that there will be special conditions as may be agreed with respect to the exploration, exploitation, marketing or beneficiation of the strategic mineral and safeguards for the sake of environmental protection, and the stakeholdership, if any, to be given to the community of the area in which the strategic mineral is to be mined
The designation of a mineral as a strategic mineral does not operate so as to prohibit the exploration for that mineral if such exploration is done independently of its exploitation, or is not done as a preliminary step to its exploitation.