Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Government has forfeited more than 1 000 gold mining claims belonging to individuals and companies in Matabeleland North Province for failure to pay inspection fees since last year and beyond as it forges ahead with its “use it or lose it” policy aimed at enhancing mineral production.
Matabeleland North provincial mining director Mr Julius Moyo confirmed the forfeiting of the claims in terms of Section 260 and 261 of the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:05) after the lapsing of a one month grace period to clear their arrears by 31 July.
A miner is required to pay an inspection fee of $100 six months upon starting operations, thereafter one is subjected to paying the same amount yearly per mining claim.
“Our mandate is to see to it that the miners pay their inspection fees to Government every year. They were given ample time, a month’s warning. People should learn to honour their tax obligation because how do they expect the Government to generate its revenue,” said Mr Moyo.
A notice dated 19 June seen by Sunday Business at the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development’s provincial offices in Bulawayo stated that: “Notice is hereby given to all registered miners that all claims with their last inspection date falling under 31 December 2016 will be forfeited after 30 days (24 July 2017) unless all arrears are cleared in accordance to the Mines and Minerals Act Chapter 21:05 section 265 Subsection (2)”.
Mr Moyo said most of the forfeited mining claims were unutilised with owners holding onto them for speculative purposes.
Although Mr Moyo could not give some of the names, some of the claims are reportedly registered under big mining companies and executive members of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation.
“The bulk of the mines are not being worked on, they are just claims most of the miners were just keeping for speculative purposes. It’s not (forfeiting of mines) happening at the same time (countrywide). We (Matabeleland North) are doing it now, maybe others did it earlier,” he said.
The confiscation of the claims for non-payment of inspection fees is part of Government’s efforts to take over unused mining licenses from companies and liberalise gold trading as a way to boost output.
According to the ministry the forfeited claims would be opened for re-allocation on 21 August unless forfeiture has been revoked in accordance with Section 260 of the Mines and Minerals Act
“There is a revocation fee of $1 000 which has to be paid including the outstanding arrears before 35 days, after that one will lose the mine completely and we give it to the next person. People should just honour up,” said Mr Moyo.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) first vice-president Mr Ishmael Kaguru said the number of mines that have been targeted for take-over by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development was overwhelming and likely to affect production.
“We are very much concerned by the high number of mining claims that will be forfeited. For instance Matabeleland North Province has about 3 500 mines and over a 1 000 are being forfeited, that’s a high figure. It will mean that if it was productive, production will be lost and this will also render a number of people jobless,” said Mr Kaguru.
He said most small-scale miners overlooked the annual payment of inspection fees largely due to the fact that they would have paid varying amounts for their registration, prospectors and pegging fees upon starting operations.
“Most of our miners aren’t aware that they should be paying inspection fees yearly and to make matters worse the information advising miners to pay is only put on notice boards at the ministry’s offices instead of having it advertised in different types of the media,” said Mr Kaguru.
The Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe in its document outlining initiatives of the proposed Command Mining Programme recently said large mines are “sitting on lots of unused claims”.
“EPOs (Exclusive Prospecting Orders) have large tracts of land and there are also other big mines that pegged numerous mining claims for speculative purposes and these will also be affected but fortunately for them these are financially resourced to pay for outstanding inspection fees”.
In 2012 the Government withdrew 100 EPOs after holders did not respond to a call to confirm their interest.
“Our greatest concern is with small-scale miners especially during these harsh economic conditions we are facing. We have been moving around encouraging them to pay and we are also engaging the ministry to come up with a payment plan to enable them to clear their arrears,” said Mr Kaguru.
However, ZMF spokesperson Mr Dosman Mangisi said most small-scale miners were failing to pay inspection fees largely due to the fact that they owned numerous mining claims.
“We are urging the miners to pay inspection fees and refrain from accumulating many mining claims. Instead they should have resources which are manageable. The ministry has since last year been calling on the miners to pay their fees and we even convinced some to come up with a payment plan.
“The failure to pay an inspection fee is more of lack of corporate governance on the part of miners as the fee is only $100 and for one to fail to pay such an amount is rather ridiculous. These are the reasons the Government considered coming up with the use it or lose it policy,” said Mr Mangisi.