Residents in Hwange and Mberengwa told the Portfolio Committee on Mines, Energy and Power Development that their communities were not benefiting much from mining operations in their respective communities. They said this today during public hearings being conducted by the Committee on the Mines and minerals Amendment Bill. They said that the Bill should include water-tight provisions that make corporate social responsibility mandatory. In a related matter, participants also complained about environmental degradation resulting from mining operations. They said the Bill should include stringent provisions that protect the environment from mining operations.
Conflict between mining and agriculture came under the spotlight during the discussion on the provisions of the Bill. Some participants, ostensibly farmers, argued that there must be a provision in the Bill that entitles the farm owner a certain percentage of revenue if the mine claim is pegged on his/her farm as opposed to the current scenario where mining activities take precedence over agricultural activities.
Communities were also not happy with representations on mining boards as they felt that people appointed by government on these boards did not represent their interests. They called for a transparency process where the affected communities are involved in the selection of board members to ensure regional and gender balance as well as representation of the youths and interests of small scale miners.
Small scale miners told the Committee that the current prospecting and license fee structure was too prohibitive to first-time miners and was thus counter-productive to government’s indigenization and empowerment policies. Participants also appealed to parliamentarians to ensure that the law protects mine claim holders from being dispossessed of their claims by those who are politically connected. They said corruption was rampant regarding the issuance of claim certificates resulting in double issuance of claims. This exposed small scale claim holders to those with political muscles and financial means. They, therefore, called for the law to protect them by way of issuing title deeds to their claims instead of certificates that can be withdrawn any time. Participants were also not happy with the statement in the Bill which says the registrar may deny persons mining licences where the applicant is deemed “unfit and improper”. They argued that this gave the registrar too much discretionary powers, which could be abused. The Bill should clarify and tighten this provision.
It was also brought to the attention of the Committee that child labour was rampant especially in the small scale mining sector. Participants said this should be outlawed, noting that it was the responsibility of government to provide education and health care to the less privileged children instead of letting them to scrounge for a living at a tender age.
Participants also urged government to seriously enact policies that will advance value addition and beneficiation of the minerals that the country was endowed with, resulting in more revenue inflows to the fiscus as well as creating employment.
Venues for tomorrow’s public hearings are listed in the schedule below.