The Sunday News
Njabulo Bhebe, Business Reporter
THE Government has forfeited more than 1 000 gold mining claims in Matabeleland South following failure by owners to pay inspection fees since last year and beyond, as it implements its “use it or lose it” policy aimed at enhancing mineral production.
In an interview with Sunday News Business last Tuesday, Zimbabwe Miners Federation secretary-general Mr Philemon Mokuele said some small-scale miners in Matabeleland South have since stopped mining operations after their mining claims were forfeited by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development for failure to pay inspection fees or commencing production within the stipulated time frame.
“Most small-scale miners in Matabeleland South are no longer operating after over 1 000 mining claims were forfeited. Miners were used to operating without paying inspection fees for two or three years and the decision to forfeit claims for non-payment of fees over a period caught many unaware,” he said.
A miner is required to pay an inspection fee of $100 for six months upon starting operations, thereafter one is subjected to paying the same amount annually per mining claim. The confiscation of the claims for non-payment of inspection fees is part of Government’s efforts to take over unused mining licences from companies and liberalise gold trading as a way to boost output.
Mr Mokuele added that most of the gold rich areas in the province were under Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) making it difficult for small-scale miners to carry out extraction activities.
“In Matabeleland South, 95 percent of the land is under EPOs meaning that only five percent is left for small-scale miners to explore and exploit and considering the rate at which the Ministry of Mines is forfeiting claims this has left most small-scale mines without claims to work on. It’s actually a major setback towards efforts to involve small-scale miners in gold production as they are not allowed to peg claims in areas with EPOs,” he said.
Mr Mokuele said there was a need for Government to address the issue of EPOs as it was pushing small-scale miners from the mining business.
“Government needs to expeditiously address the issue of EPOs as it is affecting small-scale miners’ contribution to the country’s production,” he said.
An EPO confers the exclusive right to prospect for specified minerals in any defined area in Zimbabwe. The EPO is obtained through an application made to the Mining Affairs Board. The maximum possible period of holding onto an EPO, according to mining laws is six years, initially for three years and possible extension for a maximum three years.
Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Polite Kambamura could neither confirm nor deny the forfeiting of mining claims in Matabeleland South but hinted that it was a statutory obligation for the ministry to penalise individuals or companies for failure to pay inspection fees.
“According to Mines and Minerals Act, claims are forfeited upon failure to submit production returns and failure to pay annual inspection fees, holders are given a period to pay and revoke their claims before they are forfeited,” he said.