The government says the amended Mines and Minerals Act, due take effect in February, will decriminalise gold panning and provide for the State to seize unexploited mining claims from foreign mining houses and allocate them to small-scale miners without payment.
The amendment of the Mines and Minerals Act, which was introduced in 1961, was initiated five years ago.
Mines and Mining Development deputy minister Fred Moyo said: “We have to amend the Mines and Minerals Act in a manner that allows the government to take unused mining claims from holders and give them to small-scale miners without paying for them.
“Our target is that the amended law should be in place at the latest by the end of January. The ministry’s policy is to quickly decriminalise (the operations of) small-scale miners.
“The reason why they are criminalised at the moment is that they are working . . . on claims which do not belong to them.”
He says the ministry is currently working to determine the number of registered mining claims which are not being used, particullary those owned by foreign mining houses.
“We hope that, in the new year, a lot of claims will be released to a syndicate of small operators who will be supervised by the ministry, together with big mining companies that own these claims . . . definitely, the project will take off.”
He says the government and the Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners Council have started registering an estimated 1,5 million small-scale miners as part of plans to formalise the sector with a view to improving production.
The call to amend the Mines and Minerals Act and decriminalise gold panning took centre stage at the recent Government-Civic Society Special Conference on Zimbabwe’s Future, held in Bulawayo late last month, with most participants saying the continued criminalisation of gold panning ran counter to the country’s black-empowerment drive.
Centre for Natural Resource Governance director Farai Maguwu said the Act needed to be amended to allow more locals to exploit the country’s mineral wealth.
“At least 500 000 people in Zimbabwe earn a living through artisanal mining . . . (and) about two-million people are affected by artisanal mining.
“Given that number, we wonder why their activities are still deemed illegal.”
— Mining Weekly