GOVERNMENT has pledged to clear all Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) before the end of September following concerns by Parliament over slow processing of mineral claim applications.
The EPOs confer exclusive rights to prospect for specified minerals in any identified location within Zimbabwe and are critical in allowing international mineral explorers to scan through the country in search of minerals and producing bankable exploration results that can attract investment.
Responding to questions in Parliament recently, Mines and Mining Development Minister, Winston Chitando, said progress was being made in clearing EPOs backlog but did not give details.
“There had been a huge backlog of EPO applications, which had accumulated but I’m glad to state that the Government is now advanced and almost up to date in the processing of EPOs,” he said.
“Members may have noticed that a number of EPOs have since been gazetted for approval and we have a number, which have also been rejected.
“I’m pleased to state that by the end of September we will be fully up to date in the processing of EPOs,” said the minister.
He was responding to a question from Matabeleland North proportional representation legislator, Elizabeth Masuku, who wanted to know what the Government was doing concerning delays in processing EPOs applications for small mines.
In follow-up questions, legislators said delays in processing EPOs were frustrating potential investors and leading to illegal mining activities.
Nkayi South legislator, Stars Mathe, said some mining projects fail or resort to illegal mining because of challenges in accessing mineral prospecting right.
“This is what causes investors to turn their backs and go back because they would have waited for a long time for documents,” she said. “This gives omakorokoza a chance. So, what is the stipulated period in the ministry’s policies before the EPO is issued?” she asked.
Chegutu West legislator Dexter Nduna said there was a need for clarification on who, between the ministry and applicant, has the authority over a grant once an application for an EPO has been made.
Umzingwane legislator Brigadier General (Retired) Levi Mayihlome accused some EPOs of invading communal areas while prospecting.
In response, Minister Chitando said in terms of the law, once an application for an EPO is made, no new application is accepted until finalisation.
“The fact that we have some EPOs, which had taken a number of years to process meant that other investors who would have wanted to participate to acquire respective mining title in that particular EPO application were prohibited,” he explained.
“There has been a huge backlog of EPO applications and now all EPOs, which come in will be processed timeously.”
Early this year the Government granted 25 EPOs for a period of three years up to 2023, and all were issued in terms of Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:05).