MINING stakeholders have emphasized the need to urgently craft an Exploration Bill during a workshop for Parliamentarians on the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill which ended recently in Mutare.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines Edmond Mkaratigwa told Mining Zimbabwe in an interview that there are several gaps in exploration in Zimbabwe. He said Zimbabwe is under-explored to the extent that this shies away investors.
Mkaratigwa said crafting of the Exploration Bill cannot be done before crafting of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill as it takes precedence. Therefore, he said the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill must be crafted as soon as possible.
“There are a lot of gaps within the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill and it is stalling crafting of other Bills like the Exploration Bill and is hampering their progress because if the country is to achieve a US$12 billion mining sector by 2023, we need a legal framework for exploration because investors need to know how much minerals are in place because it affects their investments,” Mkaratigwa said.
“The argument is that Zimbabwe is underexplored and there is need for serious exploration as we do not want people to invest in claims and they waste resources extracting nothing,” he said.
Mkaratigwa said the Exploration Bill must be crafted in such a way that it is explicit on who should be responsible for exploration and who should fund it, and for whose benefit.
“If mineral deposits are not ascertained, we might do geological surveys and say there are gold deposits at a certain place when it is just copper or a big rock. Therefore, exploration should be able to verify and determine investments on the mine, and the level of machinery which is needed to dig up those minerals. That is the kind of information that investors want,” he said.
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda in his keynote address said one of the contentious issues in the draft Exploration Bill was the dismantling of the Minerals and Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) to pave way for the creation of an exploration company.
“I must confess that the exploration of minerals remains a sine qua non-condition precedent in the exploration of our mineral resources. Sadly, the Africa Mining Vision (2009) highlights that most African nations “lack basic geological mapping or at best are poorly mapped,” Mudenda said.
He said the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development continues to rely on old topographical maps which are barely visible, hence the need for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to adequately resource the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to complete the establishment of the computerized mining cadastre system.
“It is important that we are fully knowledgeable of the quantities, location, and types of minerals which we are endowed with as a country. This information is critical during negotiations of mining contracts, without which the country becomes vulnerable to signing agreements that are heavily skewed in favour of the marauding foreign investors.
“In the process, our citizens will be nakedly prejudiced through insidious economic colonialism. I challenge the Ministry of Mines to robustly engage the University of Zimbabwe to leverage on its sophisticated information communication technology (ICT) hub for accelerated exploration of our minerals,” the Speaker of the National Assembly said.
Some of the proposed amendments by MPs that speak about exploration in the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill include those in clause 5 which state that the Bill must spell out the unique conditions that should attach to exploration, ownership, beneficiation, marketing, and the development of minerals.
“The Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill should set up clear and transparent guidelines on how strategic minerals are designated. The failure to do so may inhibit foreign direct investments due to the lack of clarity on the unique conditions and their implications. These unique conditions must be known upfront before an investor commits,” reads the proposed amendment.
There is another proposal that clause 42 of the Bill must deal with environmental management principles in exploration.
“The proposed section 42 (5) reads, “any prospecting, exploration or mining operation must be conducted in accordance with generally accepted principles of sustainable development by integrating social, economic, and environmental factors into the planning, and implementation of prospecting, exploration and mining projects to ensure that exploration of mineral resources serves present and future generations.”
Mkaratigwa said the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill must be tabled before Parliament during this Second Session of the Ninth Parliament, but the session is likely to end in August. It is yet to be seen if the drafting of the Bill will be completed on time.
This article first appeared in the August 2020 issue of the Mining Zimbabwe magazine