The department of mines increased new application fees, special licence fees, registration fees and ground rental fees to between US$5 000 and US$2,5 million.
The PLC resolved to issue an adverse report on the statutory instrument at its meeting on March 16 2012 saying, among other things, the application fees were pegged too high and they were non-refundable even if an application failed.
“Generally, the fees imposed by the statutory instrument are very hefty,” the PLC’s report says.
“They impose a heavy financial burden on citizens and non-citizens alike who opt to invest in the mining sector.
“Legal instruments that impose hefty financial burdens are more appropriate for legislative enactment to the extent that this is the only way that ordinary citizens would be able to have input into the process through their elected representatives.”
The committee also raised concerns that the statutory instrument is ultra vires the enabling Act, Mines and Minerals Act.
“The statutory instrument purports to have been enacted through the minister’s regulations –– making powers in the Mines and Minerals Act, that is, section 403. The said section does not give any competence to the minister to make regulations prescribing application fees,” reads the adverse report.
The PLC chairperson Shepherd Mushonga said it would be illegal to charge the new fees.
“These fees are a legal nullity,” said Mushonga. “The ministry cannot continue to levy these fees in the face of our adverse report.”
However, Mines minister Obert Mpofu maintains that the regulations would stand since the PLC’s report is just an opinion.
“I am empowered by the Act to make the decision,” said Mpofu. “People can form their opinions but the minister derives his powers from the Act and would make decisions in line with his powers.”
Mpofu told parliament on Monday that his ministry had so far receipted US$10 million since the regulations were gazetted since serious miners are the only ones applying.
He also said the new fees were meant to deter investors who applied for licences for speculative purposes.
The Chamber of Mines last week complained that the new fees were a hindrance and were negatively affecting investment in the industry.