Call to implement ‘use it or lose it’ principle on Exclusive Prospecting Orders Henrietta Rushwaya

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Reporter

Transparent prospecting orders are needed to enforce the rule that the rights must be used within deadlines or cancelled, Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Ms Henrietta Rushwaya has said.

There were still some who managed to get Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) allocated for speculative purposes, blocking access to minerals by genuine miners.

She made the appeal during a meeting for ZMF stakeholders on responsible and sustainable mining held in Harare over the weekend.

“The issue of EPOs has become a thorn in the flesh in so far as the sector is concerned,” said Ms Rushwaya.

“There are areas that are under EPOs and are being held from time immemorial and we are now calling on the Government to assist us in ensuring that this comes to an end.”

Some of the EPOs have been in place since 1908, said Ms Rushwaya, and with small-scale miners now contributing significantly towards the country’s GDP, it was time to revisit them.

She said the EPOs had closed off mining land and people no longer had mining space.

“There are too many EPOs that pass through our grave yards, there are too many EPOs that even pass through our livestock grazing areas and as such, this has led to quite a big conflict between the EPO holders and our members and the general public,” she said.

The issue of EPOs also came under discussion when miners, under the Miners4ED banner, met President Mnangagwa in June, where they called for their scrapping to free up space to allow other miners with capacity to come in.

Effective management of the small-scale mining sector can help the Government formalise operations to support better environmental and social outcomes, including decent livelihoods, gender equality, and environmental protection for affected communities.

Ms Rushwaya said the ZMF wanted to engage Government at the highest level on issues and policies that affect the members.

“We unceasingly continue to engage Government at the highest level in ensuring that some of our challenges are addressed,” she said. “As early as last week, we made a special request to the Head of State (President Mnangagwa) with regards to the gold sector and I am pleased to note that as a listening President, he will and has always listened to our plight.”

In May this year, President Mnangagwa launched the Responsible Mining Initiative Audit, to provide oversight on the sector and ensure compliance with the country’s statutes.

Ms Rushwaya emphasised that responsible mining was key to the survival of the economy and reminded artisanal and small-scale miners that the land on which they operate also belonged to future generations, hence the need for sustainable mining.

“For sustainable mining to be achieved, environmental stewardship is a must, hence we need to implement practices that minimise environmental degradation,” she said.

“A lot of our mining areas are now known for contributing to environmental damage and I urge you to shun environmental degradation.

“A lot of our mines have become so polluted to the extent of causing harm to the animals, rivers and people living in our mining areas. Let us act responsibly.”

ZMF is also concerned with the provincial mining directors’ delays in the issuance of mining claims, adding that some office holders have become interested parties.

Mashonaland West is sitting on 8 000 applications that are still to be processed, and there is only one cartographer, the person who draws or produces maps.

In this regard, Ms Rushwaya appealed to the parent ministry to employ more cartographers to expedite the process. The mining sector is central to the attainment of Vision 2030 to become an upper-middle-class economy. This year, the mining sector is expected to grow by 300 percent through new operations and old projects that will be revived.

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