Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE delay in resolving mining disputes is impacting negatively on investor confidence and slowing efforts to meet mineral production targets, the Zimbabwe Mining Federation has said.
ZMF first vice-president Mr Ishmael Kaguru said there was a need for the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to expedite the settlement of mining disputes arising mostly in the gold sector as it was stifling production.
He said about 80 percent of the disputes arise due to greedy and alleged corruption being perpetrated by unscrupulous officials in the ministry.
“This issue of disputes needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We have also observed that about 80 percent of the disputes are not genuine, they are created out of corruption and what pains us most is the time factor in resolving these disputes and at the end of the day it’s costing the country. We need an explanation as to why it takes long to resolve disputes because you find a dispute taking a year or more without being resolved. Miners make an appeal to the disciplinary committee and it takes time for it to come up with a determination,” said Mr Kaguru.
The small-scale and artisanal miners’ representative body is of the view that each of the country’s seven gold mining districts was losing an average of 20 kilogrammes of the yellow metal due to non-production due to conflicts arising from ownership of mines. Matabeleland South has the most disputes largely due to the fact that it is the biggest producing province in the country.
Mr Kaguru said the increase in mining disputes was also a threat to the miners’ efforts of attaining the 28 tonnes of gold production target set by the Government by year-end with small-scale miners pledging to produce 12 tonnes of the allotted total production.
“It boggles the mind that we set ourselves a target as a country yet we are failing to solve the problems that might hinder us from achieving that target. It is solely up to the ministry to quell this problem of disputes timeously,” he said.
Mr Kaguru also said the disputes were also impacting negatively on investor confidence.
“We are losing a lot of potential investors because of this anomaly. We have an issue in Maphisa where an investor is crying foul after having put a lot of equipment there but production hasn’t taken off since the beginning of the year due to a dispute. At the same time we are crying about bringing in investors as a country yet we aren’t creating a conducive environment for them to operate,” he said.
Ministry of Mines and Mining Development’s chief Government mining surveyor and dispute committee chairperson Mr Masimba Kaisi said the Minister (Walter Chidhakwa) has the final decision pertaining to mining disputes.
“I am delegated by the ministry to preside over dispute matters, thereafter we present our findings together with a committee to the Permanent Secretary or the minister depending on the gravity of the matter and as such I can’t have a say on the final decision thus meaning I’m not in a position to know why it takes time for disputes to be resolved,” said Mr Kaisi.
Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Fred Moyo acknowledged that there were delays in resolving mining disputes but hinted that most of it was caused by the different routes the concerned parties take in their efforts to settle disagreements.
“I acknowledge that it takes time to solve some of the disputes but it all has to do with the route the matter takes to be resolved. It starts at the provincial level and it moves to the head office but if one sees that they aren’t getting the desired result they then take it to the High Court where it takes time to be heard and then somehow it’s thrown back to the head office.
“So these parallel systems are the ones causing the delays, it is these multiple placement of challenges that cause delays in resolving the disputes. We are however, in discussion with the High Court to see how best such cases can be barred from being heard there and have the matters being taken to lower courts where they can be dealt with at provincial level,” said Dep Minister Moyo.
He said the other challenge which leads to the delay in settling the disputes was lack of adequate resources by the ministry.
“Obvious there are delays which are internal where there are inadequate resources for our team to do surveys so it will take them time to attend to such issues. So those are part of the bottlenecks which I can’t refute,” said Dep Minister Moyo.