Mines Portfolio Committee role, achievements, recommendations

Edmond Mkaratigwa

As Zimbabwe heads for the December 2023, 12 Billion dollar Industry deadline, the industry must be kept abreast of developments and also informed about what is being done to address the challenges in the sector.

I spoke to a man on the verge of making history with the Mines and Minerals Act. A man who needs little to no introduction to those in the mining circles. A man tasked alongside his team to lead in the lawmaking process related to the sector, to conduct enquiries and hearings on matters of interest to the mining sector among others.

He is non-other than the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development Chairman, Hon Edmond Mkaratigwa. Hon. Mkaratigwa is a hands-on electrical Engineer, a businessman, and a politician who holds a Master’s Degree in Energy and Sustainability from the University of Cumbria, United Kingdom. Here is how the interview went.

What are the duties of the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development?

The Mines and Mining Development Portfolio Committee is the delegate of the Committee of the Whole House which is generally the National Assembly in this case. The Committee is established in line with the Standing Rules and Orders of the Parliament of Zimbabwe. That is to represent the sectoral interests in Parliament, to lead in law making process related to the sector, to conduct enquiries and hearings on matters of interest to the sector among others. Basically, we carry on with the broader Parliamentary mandate as enshrined in the Constitution but our work in narrowed to the Mines and Mining Development sector to ensure focused attention, easy capacitation for the task and a manageable responsibility and accountability framework.

What have been the committee’s 5 most received complaints?

The Committee has received many complaints and these include disputes in the sector. Relative to the mine disputes were issues around claims boundaries, ownership disputes where there are double allocations and inheritance issues where the owner of the mine died while in a syndicate or some kind of agreement and the family fails to claim their share of business due to poor contract drafting. Other complaints were on pollution of the environment by miners in communities they operate without compensation, exploitation of resources without environmental reclamation arrangements and infrastructure destruction by mining firms without the maintenance of the same. Basically, the lack of community benefits from mining proceeds topped while mineral pricing and payment arrangements have also been among the key complaints.

There is concern regarding growing disputes across the country. What has the committee done to have this addressed and what is being done to PMDs who have disputes growing under their watch?

Disputes have been growing and as a committee, we have conducted an inquiry in the gold sector to establish the facts on the causes of such and we presented the report to the House of Assembly. The PMDs largely needed more support from the Government because some of the challenges were a result of the challenges in the institution than individual. Problem individuals were being dealt in line with their employment codes and procedures and you might have seen the Ministry of Mines requesting miners to submit their documents to the PMDs throughout the country, meant to unblock some of the weaknesses that were in the system and manifesting in the different provinces.

There was an issue raised whereby the committee noted there was not really a way to know if some mines are being honest about what they are producing. Has the committee devised a way of getting estimates of what a mine produces?

The Committee recommended to the Ministry and some of the recommendations are already being implemented. You can see that there are monitors deployed in the different mines by government, to perform the government watchdog role for the sake of transparency and accountability. That is a good start and these people require to be empowered further technically for them to be able to perform their duties more effectively. The Ministry therefore has a good estimate of the production taking place at all major mines. In the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mines, Fidelity Printers is buying most of the gold and there are also mechanisms that support accountability at the moment, so there is a fair improvement in record of estimates of production in the country.

Do you foresee the country attaining the 12 billion Mining Industry by 2023?

Yes, actually the country is posed to exceed the target. There is already evidence that the country has managed to achieve the target and also exceeded it. A lot is happening and continues to happen in the sector that it is undoubtedly a success story.

You are well set to be the first Mines Parliamentary committee chairman in post-independent Zimbabwe who may preside over the successful amendment of the Mines and Minerals Act. What do Zimbabweans wish to see added and or removed in the new Act?

We are hugely in the tracks to ensure the amendment is successful as planned and this is a deliverable that we are not relenting on due to its centrality in unlocking many blockages bedevilling the Zimbabwean socio-politico environment and the broader economy. Zimbabweans have wanted the Computerised Cadastre System added, the relationship between the farmer and miner fully defined for co-existence, an improved version of the dispute handling mechanism, corporate social responsibility or community benefit in local exploitation of local natural resources among many others. Basically, there is need for consolidation of the natural resource ownership and management in the country, for the benefit of all and for sustainable national development.

There have been clashes from the issuance of land between RDCs across the country and the Mines Ministry and it’s still ongoing. Does the parliament have a solution in place to fix the problem?

These are land use disputes and these have to be defined fully in our legislation. There are overlaps in our laws and that warrants amendments of a host of laws towards legislative harmony. These laws have been too fragmented hence some are conflicting yet appearing to be championing the same vision. As Parliament, we have the solution and as the Committee particularly, we have highlighted these issues in all platforms where opportunity presented itself and where we created the opportunity, but the speed of implementation has been very slow as is usually the norm with the wheels of government, although at the moment, our position has remained that it should be business unusual. In our arsenal is the legislative role and we are ready to amend the relevant laws and we have represented our sectors and stated what they need at the moment, which is the laws that speak to their current challenges like the amendment to the Mines and Minerals Act still in the mill.

What has the committee achieved since you took over Chairmanship?

The Committee redefined itself to pragmatism that is more results-oriented, getting to extremes for a cause and being strategic to achieve cooperation towards the common national agenda, in our differentiated role. We have therefore engaged the government and there has been improvement in deliveries of gold for example, to Fidelity Printers and Refineries. The Committee also initiated, conducted, completed and presented an internationally acclaimed self-assessment exercise pre-Kimberly Diamond Certification assessment. That enabled us as a country to address our challenges together with the civil society, the executive and Parliament. In that respect, Zimbabwe proved willing to comply with international frameworks within the spirit of continuous improvement and re-engagement and that was taken as a lesson to our neighbouring countries and others globally. The Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill is work in progress and we are still believing that it is going to be our key achievement. We have also done much in addressing conflicts in the sector, which we commend ourselves as having achieved in dousing those fires significantly. The Committee also shares in the joys of achieving the $12 Billion Mining Vision as we monitored and evaluated the progress and addressed challenges we have seen along the way, towards achievement of government policy goals. A lot has been done and I can say we are doing much.

Safety has been of concern in small-scale mines. What are the committee’s recommendations for safe and responsible mining?

The Committee has recommended for the formalisation of the sector and also, the use of the government-initiated equipment purchase scheme for the sector so that it moves away from too much reliance on rudimentary ways of mining. The sector also requires capacity building which is ongoing and that should continue so as to save life. Decentralised emergency management systems including by the private sector should continue to be promoted to ensure early response.

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Miners and mine workers across the country appreciate your committee’s enquiries and many wish the visits are increased and be more frequent. How many times per year do you conduct these visits, how should miners or mine workers request a visit and is there a chance of the committee increasing the visits?

The visits are mostly determined by the issues that need to be understood further, for national action. The visits can be as many but usually we respond to a need from the people we so dearly represent. Resource availability also comes in while due to the number of national issues given the expanse of the country, sometimes we also have to prioritise and focus on what is achievable within set timeframes. Miners and mine workers can request Parliament through petitioning Parliament where there is an issue of importance that warrants attention of the institution. In addition, engaging parliamentarians enables the matter to get space in the committee’s agendas. Further, airing issues through other representative bodies such as miner’s associations, fast tracks feedback to the Committee, which can trigger the desired action. The Committee is always ready to engage, listen and represent.

Large-scale Miners have for some time raised alarm about the 60% USD and 40zwl retention saying it is just not working for them and is stifling production. What is parliament doing about this?

Parliament has always remained open to get details of modalities that work. If you remember well, we stated during the time the 60/40% was achieved that, we must continue to engage until we get to where we desire. The best way is to get some new position papers so that we have basis that justifies the new demands so that we represent while fully equipped. Parliament has raised these issues but the sector has also largely not been forthcoming of late. We are ready to hear what our constituents have in mind, and as part of what they think work best for them and the national interest, for the broader good of all today and in the future.

Semi-precious miners have for years complained about the slow process in the export of their gemstones which they say a simple export of a handful of stones takes between 2 weeks and a month to get export clearance from the MMCZ. Is this not a catalyst for smuggling and what can parliament do to ensure the process is sped-up like it is in neighbouring Zambia? 

That is a catalyst for smuggling, opting for other alternative countries by investors and discouragement of investment in those minerals locally. The Committee has not shield away from interrogating those issues. We actually set as our first priority, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in the sector and we have really surfaced most of these issues, including after getting hard evidence from private practitioners in the sector. It is still appalling to note that there are still such delays as in our approach, those are part of the fundamentals that can be dealt with internally without need for external resources. A change in work culture is key for national development and that has been emphasised at the outset of the New Dispensation led by H. E. the President Cde. Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa. In our committee following its reconstitution, we identified such gaps and tried much to address that including cutting unnecessary time wasted in some procedures as well as through reduction of overcentralisation and increasing on recruitment. Much has been done in that regard, to the extent of being granted a budget allocation through our intervention.

Zimbabwe may see a dramatic increase in lithium production as world giants have taken over Bikita and Acardia Lithium. With several countries committed to phasing out new gasoline and diesel engine vehicles by 2040, the recent growth in electric vehicle (EV) adoption has fuelled a global boom in lithium production. What is parliament doing to ensure Zimbabwe is the first priority for lithium products by 2040 when the world finally stops making gasoline engines?

Parliament is one among three and its role is complementary to overall government targets. Zimbabwe is open for business and the country has opened up to the nationals and international players. There is a market for all to see and we are inviting innovations from all and we can support those that need support to tap into the niche areas of their choice. Parliament has jointly called on the people of the world to take advantage of the opportunities that we have whilst they are still available. We have also recommended our universities to adapt a new model of higher education that inculcates a business mind and creation of wealth, and we are happy that is taking place. Zimbabwe will wait for a while, but no longer anymore, and so far, the gods are favouring us, as the country is now poised to build itself from within and by itself with the support of her friends and allies. The market of lithium is part of the coalescence of the market in our favour as much as we see the opportunities with diligence.

Artisanal Small-scale and foreign companies are paying the same mining fees to conduct mining business. Will we see a different pricing tier system in the new Act?

The new Act cannot regulate fees as these will change time and again, hence requiring continuous updating while lawmaking is a long-term and costly process. Fees are gazetted through statutory instruments and administrative directives and law-making requires the whole of government and citizenry’s participation. As a country, these fees may appear uniform but there could be reasons at the moment, to motivate investment by all, accepting certain costs, for the sake of certain short-term, medium-term and long-term benefits. Zimbabwe has been laying the foundation and it is now building the blocs for the superstructure, acknowledging the support from all willing locals and internationals, hence it is strategically embracing and maintaining relations in all and with all that share the national vision as laid out by the government and through His Excellency, the President of Zimbabwe, Cde. Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa.

This article first appeared in the Mine Entra 2022 edition of the Mining Zimbabwe Magazine

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