BY FREEMAN MAKOPA
WINSTON Chitando (WC), the Mines and Mining Development minister is at the vortex of a massive push to transform Zimbabwe’s mining industry. The strategy is to make sure the industry takes its rightful position as one of the major drivers of Zimbabwe’s economy. Since taking over the hot seat in 2018, the former Mimosa Mining Company executive chairman has had to make a few hard decisions including revamping the country’s mining laws and unveiling a strategy that will see Zimbabwe generating US$12 billion from its resources annually by 2023. The industry generates about US$2 billion currently. While doubts about his ambitious targets still linger on, the minister this week took time to share the progress that his reform agenda has so far achieved with our Business Reporter, Freeman Makopa (FM). Here is how their discussion turned out. Below are excerpts of the interview:
FM: Talk about amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act has been going on for some time. How far have you gone?
WC: There are a couple of issues in terms of the update and the first one is the amendment of the Mines and Minerals Act. The amendments are quite advanced and the draft amendments are now going through the executive process for further review. We expect that in the next couple of weeks, we should be ready to move to the next step on the Bill. The ministry, working with Attorney-General’s office has now finalised the proposed amendments which are now going through due process. We will give an update as and when we will move on to the next step.
FM: Will this be the final thing on your agenda?
WC: In terms of the legislative agenda there are two other Bills which are due for review. These are the Gold Trade Act and the Precious Stones Act. The strategy has been that we finalise amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act first then move on to do the God Trade Act and the Precious Stones Act because the Mines and Minerals Act is really the cornerstone of the mining industry. So we want to finalise that first and the other Acts, whilst they are independent, they largely fit in the Mines and Minerals Act.
FM: Take us through the benefits the Mines and Minerals Act
WC: The major benefits of the revised Mines and Minerals Act among other benefits is that it now has principles of administrative justice which are being aligned to the new Constitution.
It defines for the first time small-scale miners. So by being able to define small-scale miners, it enables the government to be in a position to come up with policy interventions which are geared towards small-scale miners. At the moment, in terms of the law, all miners are classified as the same. It also strengthens the ‘Use it or Lose it’ principle.
There are a number of clauses which are in there. If you recall around November last year the government came up with a principle which was termed ‘Orderly Mining’, whereby the government wants to see mining grow in a responsible manner in line with the laws of the country. So you will find that renewal of mining claims will not be automatic. It won’t be just paying; it will be a question of checking that you are compliant with the law.
FM: The coal mining sector has been affected by many challenges. Please take us through what is happening
WC: Zimbabwe has recorded over 25 billion tonnes of coal reserves. Coal export is an area we want to participate in.
FM: Is the system of registering mines now watertight?
WC: I am pleased to say the hardware for the implementation of the Mining Cadastre System will be on sight in the next few weeks. We believe that by, latest, end of June the hardware will be on site and the implementation of the Cadastre system will start immediately, essentially by data capture, which will take place throughout the provinces and we are targeting that we have that system operational as soon as possible. I am pleased to say computerisation of the mining system is now around the corner.
FM: What has been taking place around the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative?
WC: Government is seized with the matter and we have the inter-ministerial committee on Mines and Finance who are looking at it, to look at the compliance of the EITI and when the time is ripe an update will be given accordingly.
On mineral leakages it is work in progress. It is an inter-ministerial intervention which includes other government departments which are seized with the matter. I think as it becomes necessary we can comment accordingly.