GOVERNMENT has finally set in motion the long overdue amendments to the 1963 Mines and Minerals Amendment Act. No doubt the Act in its current state has lost relevance as it no longer speaks to the development of the resources sector in the country.
The draft amendments seek, among other things, to cut out speculative tendencies which were rampant among grant holders; establish the cadastre system, which is vital for ease of title management, as opposed to the current manual system which is prone to human error and corruption. They will also ban mining which degrades the country’s environment and plug loopholes created by lax systems.
The draft amendments also seek to prevent abuse of power, improve the contract awarding process through the GPS system and remove arbitrary distinctions between base and precious metals.
Further, it is expected that the draft Bill will reduce abuse of power through checks and balances on executive decisions, clarify technical and financial qualifications for prospecting licences, put a cap on the number of licence renewals, and introduce a single licensing authority.
All this will be backed up by a clear and well defined national policy that defines the national vision for the industry, and sets benchmarks to measure the impact of mining reforms, while promoting coherence of laws and policies that govern mining for the avoidance of doubt.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa rightly said that the amendment was now a necessity as this would address the shortcomings of the current archaic Act by aligning it to the aspirations, demands and expectations of Zimbabweans against a backdrop of global best practices.
The lack of a well-defined, effective and globally benchmarked framework, legislative and institutional arrangements regarding issuance, management and handling of mining investment and provisions for addressing potential dispute all created loopholes across the mining sector, while it failed to hold mining companies to account in their respective sub-sectors.
This is true, especially when people consider the goings-on at Chiadzwa where President Mugabe has said the country lost $15 billion in potential revenue. Preventing abuse of systems and laws with impunity, and scandalous plunder of national assets requires deliberate efforts to build foolproof checks and balances to punish unscrupulous conduct, bring culprits to book or guarantee just treatment.
It is against this background that we strongly believe that future legislation should take cognisance of all identifiable, potential pitfalls deriving useful lessons from the chaos and controversy that has dogged Chiadzwa diamonds, which now appear a curse than blessing for the people of Zimbabwe. Governance provisions need to be adequately and clearly laid out in black and white and should address questions like who issues or how mining licences are issued, at what point the licence is cancelled, what constitutes an offence for licence termination, how long the mining licence should be valid and what the recourse for justice is.
In fact, legal provisions, investment, operational and contractual frameworks should be as comprehensive as possible to eliminate room for arbitrage and ensure they serve the best interests of the State and citizens.
Failure to provide adequate regulations usually results in expensive disputes and chaos that attract negative attention to the country and also results in serious prejudice and plunder of its wealth.
We therefore implore the authorities to expedite the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, which should clearly articulate how investment in all areas of mining is handled. We believe legislators across the political divide will also give the Bill serious scrutiny to ensure that it serves the intended purpose.