Zimbabwe News

Govt accuses miners of stealing minerals worth billions

Miners in the country have been accused of hiding mineral discoveries and fleecing the economy of billions of dollars, a situation that has forced the Mines ministry to introduce stringent measures and frequent inspections.

The Mines ministry has now temporarily banned issuance of mining titles until further notice for diamonds, copper, lithium, nickel and rare earth minerals citing an unusual increase in applications for claims.

An internal circular dated December 19, 2022 penned by Mines ministry secretary Pfungwa Kunaka and addressed to 10 directors in government departments stated that the ministry had found that some miners have not been declaring the discovery of different minerals at their mines.

The circular was also copied to Mines minister Winston Chitando.

“This non-declaration has led to prejudice to the growth of the mining sector economy as in some instances high value minerals are involved,” Kunaka said.

“Accordingly, you are hereby directed to ensure that on applications for inspection certificates, the applicants submit a declaration of the amount of work carried out as well as a declaration of minerals contained in the ore body being mined. This should be backed by an assay certificate issued by an approved laboratory.”

Kunaka said given the leakage of minerals in the mining sector, frequent inspections would be done, while officials would be required to submit monthly reports effective from December 19, 2022.

“Further, we have of late seen a flooding of applications for mining titles for minerals which have been deemed strategic in the upcoming Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill. It has thus become necessary that in the national interest, we temporarily stop acceptance and processing of applications for mining titles for the following minerals until further notice: diamonds, copper, lithium, nickel (and) rare earth minerals,” he said.

Mines deputy minister Polite Kambura said the decision on diamonds, nickel, copper, lithium and rare earth minerals was in line with the government’s long term strategy to have State control in the exploitation of the minerals.

“They are strategic minerals on demand internationally. These are to be exploited commercially at large scale where government will have control. These minerals are key to the development of our country. On other key minerals like PGMs, government put reservations [Great Dyke] for control and monitoring,” Kambamura told NewsDay. On Tuesday, government announced through Statutory Instrument 213 of 2022, cited as the Base Minerals Export Control (Unbeneficiated Lithium Bearing Ores) Order, 2022, that the export of raw lithium has been banned.

The move is meant to encourage exportation of beneficiated products.

Zimbabwe is estimated to hold Africa’s largest lithium reserves and is the fifth largest in the world.

Recently, mining watchdog Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) said Zimbabwe was losing US$1,8 billion through illicit financial flows in the mineral sector amounting to US$8 billion annually, yet it depends on donor aid.

CNRG said ignorance and lack of political to enforce accountability and transparency in the mining industry had cost the economy hundreds of millions in United States dollars annually in potential revenues as about 36 different types of coloured gemstones were being smuggled out of the country.

“Dealers who collude with law enforcement [agents], and regulators often backed by political heavyweights with licences and connections- are part of a syndicate behind opaque trade of gemstones which normally end up in Asia,” a recent CNRG report titled The Political Economy of the Illicit Coloured Gemstone Industry in Zimbabwe said.

CNRG also noted that artisanal miners are often unregistered and were heavily involved in mineral leakages.

Zimbabwe has an ambitious target of attaining $12 billion mining industry by 2023.

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