It is extremely important for miners to understand what the Mines and Minerals act say on Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) for them to get clear clarity. In actuality miners are not supposed to be fighting against these EPOs but ensuring that the act is followed and adhered to by the Government and EPO holders, to protect their rights and ensure they gain from the presence of EPO’s in their areas, Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) Vice President Lindi Mpofu has said.
Rudairo Dickson Mapuranga
Speaking at a Miners Meeting held in Norton last month, the ZMF Vice President said that miners are misdirecting their energy and fighting against the very thing that could uplift them and the nation. The act has many sections that protect the miner and safeguard their rights regarding mining claims under EPO’s these rights if enforced coupled with “lose it or use it” which is under review by the Ministry will make way for a better mining sector and impact small scale operations positively.
Mpofu said that miners should embrace EPOs because it is a way for small-scale miners to gain information on the viability of their mining land and access to information on the geology of the explored mining concessions.
Lindi also said that at law EPO holders are required to recede land back to the government along with the geological every year during the 3 year period granted to EPO Applicants. It must be understood that when an EPO Applicant is granted an EPO a three year duration period is given for exploration under which up to five minerals can be explored. The government expects that yearly portions of the EPO’s will be receded to the government with the geological information for the areas explored. For example under the 65, 000 hectares given which is the maximum land area allowed to be allocated as per act, perhaps 20,000 hectares will be explored, note that not all the land will be suitable for large scale mining some areas will definitely be suitable for small-scale mining operations, armed with knowledge of the preferred areas to mine the EPO applicant will then recede the portion that will not be utilised by them back to government with the geological reports. Miners should be fighting to ensure that this land and information must be availed to small-scale miners through the geological survey offices within the respective province being explored.
“If granted access to these geological reports miners will run better operations as access to geological will ensure more targeted, efficient mining which will reduce the rampant land degradation, the reduced mining costs will enable miners to have excess capital to reinvest and grow their operations, access to geological will enable miners to attract investors and structure better joint venture partnerships, access to equipment loans, collateral becomes possible as miners can utilise their claim to negotiate better terms thus promoting financial sector inclusion. More indigenous miners can venture into mining as proper information will be readily available to ensure return on investment.”
“Above all this, our Nation benefits greatly as the government is better placed when signing trade deals with foreign investors as they can now avail geological reports showing resources available for exploitation. This will lead to overall better deal structures and revenue earned from our minerals. Under the current sanctions, it will also help to attract more genuine mining firms who will follow our country laws and help uplift our surrounding mining communities. The uplifting of the local miners will also help to drastically impact and improve the surrounding areas through commerce and increased earnings which will also allow for community project support.”
“Section 86 deals with the issue of EPO’s and I encourage Miners to familiarise themselves with the act” our literacy level allows for all miners within the sector to take time to familiarise themselves with the important acts that affect them as miners said Lindi.
Lindi Mpofu went on to say that miners should seek to understand their rights under EPOs, for example, miners can retain their mining concessions which are under EPOs as long as fees are paid up to date with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. In the event of any oversight, Miners should approach the Ministry or make use of their ZMF Provincial Chairpersons to get assistance as mistakes can occur, hopefully, these will be rectified faster with the arrival of the cadastre system. The “Use it or lose it” policy will also help to free up land parcels that have been held for years without activity this in addition to ensuring EPOs operate for the stipulated three-year duration and recede land as per the act, Zimbabwe should begin to see a vibrant organised sector. Miners will have access to areas to mine and more structure and order can be introduced through the formalisation of their activities.
Lindi also said that miners according to the EPO section of the act may approach EPO Applicants to request permission to mine in areas that the applicant is not interested in or not utilising. EPO Applicants are encouraged to dialogue with the local communities to promote good relations. EPO applicants were generally open to the idea of community members or associations requesting permission to mine on areas not being utilised, particularly since most areas are drought-stricken and communities have no other source of livelihood except mining.
“It is therefore imperative for Zimbabwe to carry out these explorations, however, miners should seek to understand their rights under the EPOs to promote better understanding and engagement,” said Lindi
It is important to note that Exploration grants or assistance are normally extended to countries to assist with the quantification of minerals available in the ground. This enables countries to have knowledge of their resources and it assists when signing trade deals with other countries however under the current circumstances Zimbabwe is not legible for this type of assistance due to a number of challenges sanctions being a major stumbling block, Zimbabwe is, therefore, relying on small and large companies who are willing to carry out exploration deals with Zimbabwe over specific parcels of land for specific minerals. The large areas are due to the use of satellites and helicopters as the process of exploration takes place.
This article 1st appeared in the Mining Zimbabwe Magazine November 2019 issue