Proposed mines minister additional powers clipped

19 May, 2023 - 00:05 0 Views

eBusiness Weekly

Business Writer

THE Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) has issued an adverse report against the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, to block proposals to grant the responsible minister certain powers, including discretionary power to accept or decline applications for investment in strategic minerals.

In terms of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, nuclear energy source materials, mineral oils, lithium, diamonds, rare earth minerals, copper, gaseous hydrocarbons, coal and nickel have been classified as strategic.

Mining is strategically important to Zimbabwe, employing hundreds of thousands across the country and generating well over 75 percent of the country’s foreign currency earnings.

Under a mining development roadmap adopted in 2020, the Government intends to grow mining into a US$12 billion industry by the end of this year, with gold and platinum expected to contribute the most.

In the PLC’s adverse report, two key issues stand out; proposals to grant the Minister of Mines and Mining Development excessive power in relation to strategic minerals and dealing with the rights of landowners and miners. Clause 6 (4) (a) (ii) of the amendment law provides that any person who wishes to mine a strategic mineral shall satisfy the Minister that he or she has the capacity to invest a sum equivalent to or at least US$100 million.

According to the PLC, the provision on strategic minerals gives the minister the discretion to prescribe lesser or greater sums generally or in relation to a specific declaration of a strategic mineral.

“The benchmark of one hundred million (United States) dollars is on the high side and appears to be a thumb suck figure such that the majority of ordinary citizens will be unable to mine strategic minerals.

This will also affect local companies that cannot afford to invest that amount. This clause allows monopolisation of mining by foreign companies who are able to afford the stipulated figure,” the PLC said in its report.

Further, the PLC argued that this clause is in violation of section 56 (3) of the Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of economic status for one to acquire equal opportunities in mining. As a rule, laws should apply generally and not just to particular individuals or classes of people.

It also said the law defeats the national objectives set out in Chapter 2 of the Constitution, in particular section 13, which advocates for local communities to benefit from the resources in their areas and the empowerment of the Zimbabwean citizens through involving them in national development projects.

The PLC also rejected Bill in its current state saying Clause 35 (4) is in violation of section 71(2) and (3) of the Constitution, which provides for property rights and compensation for compulsory deprivation of land.

“This clause provides that if a landholder or Rural District Council withholds consent to a person seeking to exercise their rights under any exclusive prospecting licence, exclusive exploration licence or any special grant, he or she may not be a beneficial owner directly or indirectly by obtaining any mining right or title over the ground (surface rights) in respect of which consent was withheld for a period of 10 years,” the PLC said.

It said this had a negative impact on the rights of landowner, pointing out the landholder or Rural District Council concerned should not be penalised for withholding consent.

“Both the landholder and the miner have the right to apply for a mining title. The landowner should be offered first preference if the mineral is occurring on their land”.

According to the PLC, the provision also violates section 194(d) of the Constitution, which provides that public administration in all tiers of government, including institutions and agencies of the state and government-controlled entities and other public enterprises must be governed by the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution.

These include, the PLC said, the principle that services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias. The majority of citizens expect to see equity between miners and the villagers.

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