Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
BUBI District in Matabeleland North Province is probably one of the richest mineral endowed areas in the country albeit it is also on the lower echelons in terms of economic development.
Bubi is endowed with an array of mineral deposits namely gold, lime, garnet, diamonds, nickel and copper.
In actual fact a few strides into the area one is most certain to stumble upon a claim of the yellow mineral yet in spite of all those mineral resources economic development is at its lowest ebb.
Bubi Rural District Council (BRDC) chief executive officer Mr Patson Mlilo agrees that with a plethora of minerals the district should be one of the country’s economic hubs but quickly pointed out that a number of policies were hindering development in his area of jurisdiction.
“Naturally one would expect or say areas with vast natural and mineral resources ought to have massive developments but that’s not always the case.
Minerals are controlled by the State and we (community) benefit through having our people employed at the mines as well as a few infrastructural developments and corporate social responsibility initiatives by mining companies operating within our area.
“We don’t benefit directly from the mining activities in our area because minerals are regulated and the current RDCs (Rural District Councils) Act works against us from attaining substantial revenue from the mines but we do benefit in terms of investment and in the event that the mineral gets exhausted we will remain with the infrastructure, which the mine would have put in place,” said Mr Mlilo.
In terms of Section 96(1 Ob) of the RDCs Act, Chapter 29: 13, RDCs may charge levies to owners of mining locations situated on rural land in their areas. The levy is based on either the number of workers or output in tonnes in the case of precious metals. The levy is in the form of unit tax.
Section 188 of the Mines and Minerals Act entitles RDCs to receive landowners’ fees from mining activities in their areas. This is because, although RDCs are not the legal owners of the communal land under their jurisdiction (the land belongs to the State represented by the President in terms of section 4 of the Communal Land Act, Chapter 20: 04), sub-section (7) of section 188 specifically provides that they are regarded as the landowners for the purpose of receiving landowners’ fees.
The fees are pegged at $1,50 per hectare for an operational mine and $0,60 for a non-operational one.
BRDC levies mines operating within its jurisdiction $8 000 a unit per year, a paltry amount considering the revenues raked by the mines each year.
A unit is made up of every 100 people a mine employs and thereafter every 50 workers.
At its peak Casymn Mining Zimbabwe now Turk Mine used to produce 50 kilogrammes of gold a month and with a gramme of gold priced at $42 per gramme the company had the potential of realising over $23 million a year while the local authority gets less than $30 000.
The other big mines operating in Bubi are Imviga, Bilboes Holdings while more than 200 small-scale miners are operating in the area.
“In 2010 and 2011 we had investors that came to do some diamond exploration in ward 17 and 18.
“However, the investors never came back and we learnt that they discovered that extracting the gems was quite capital intensive,” said Mr Mlilo.
Geological surveys carried out in the district have proved that there are kimberlite pipes of diamonds stretching as far as Lupane District, which are still to be explored to establish a resource which is mineable.
However, a Russian company Glernaton has over the years been extracting garnet along Mbembesi River in Bubi. Garnet is a rock closely related to various precious minerals among them diamonds.
“We also have Nickel with Bindura Nickel Mine having claims of the mineral in ward 12 as well as a mineral called palladium in ward 8 and of course as well as lime which is now being extracted by a Chinese company,” said Mr Mlilo.
Bubi might boast of an array of minerals but its state of infrastructure is deplorable with its road — the Bulawayo-Nkayi main road being probably the worst in the country.
Most of the community lives in abject poverty with people walking long distances to access health facilities due to shortages of clinics. The district is also hit by a shortage of schools especially in areas where people were resettled under the Government’s land reform programme.
The schools have poor infrastructure and lack adequate learning materials, a situation which has seen them being shunned by teachers.
The district is also a leader in open defecation due to lack of ablution facilities in communities, a situation which has over the years culminated in cattle measles outbreaks, with the latest outbreak being recorded late in 2015.
Cattle are infected with measles upon consuming grass with eggs passed from the faeces of an infected person. Human beings are host to the measles tapeworm.
The Community Share Ownership Trust Scheme (CSOTS) which was launched by the Government in the district in 2012 has not benefited the community much.
The three big mines namely Casmyn, Duration Gold and Isabella have instead been accused of being truant and cunning in their efforts to refrain honouring their pledge to inject up to $1 million seed capital to bankroll community development projects.
The mines have changed names and Duration Gold Mine is now called Imviga and Casmyn is now called Turk Mine and Isabella has been renamed Bilboes as they bid to avoid paying the money they pledged during the share ownership scheme launch.
“Turk Mine has been paying to the Community Trust and to date only $200 000 has been paid,” Mr Mlilo said.
Economist Dr Bongani Ngwenya said there was a need for the Government to come up with deliberate comprehensive policies that enable communities to benefit from the mineral resources extracted in their areas.
“We need to appreciate that as long as mineral resources are not yet prospected and extracted and sold to generate revenues they are just as good as not being there at all. Now that the mineral resources have been discovered, we hope our new Government will come up with a policy that will enable the local communities to economically benefit from the exploitation of the minerals as the first and immediate beneficiaries of the minerals,” said Dr Ngwenya.
He further said there was a need for the Government to introduce reforms in the mining sector that would enable communities to benefit from their mineral resources.
“It is my desire that our new Government introduces reforms in the mining sector for the benefit of the communities so that the mineral resources revenues are channelled towards the socio-economic development of those communities that the minerals are resident.
“There is a need for some form of structures to take up this lobbying for the new Government to revisit the current mining policies and reform the sector,” said Dr Ngwenya.
Eonomist and social commentator Mr Butler Tambo queried the effectiveness and role of CSOTS.