The Sunday Mail
Itai Mazire and Abel Karowangoro
Revelations that US$500 million worth of gold is being smuggled every month have raised the need for Government to speed up the formalisation of unregistered small-scale mining operations. For years, authorities have spoken about the measures, but appear to be taking long to implement them. The rate at which potential revenue is being lost now bids Government to act expeditiously.
According to the Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Council, more than 1,5 million unregistered small-scale players are operating in different parts of the country.
Only 25 000 are registered with the council, meaning the rest are conducting transactions outside the legal parameters.
Gold deliveries to Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR) have also plummeted over the last 10 years, a factor that led to the suspension of the country from the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) in 2007.
It will only take concerted effort to attain the minimum 10 tonnes per calendar year for Zimbabwe to be readmitted. A lot of ground still needs to be covered as FPR has only managed to process 2,7 tonnes since the beginning of this year.
FPR chief executive officer Mr Allen Marimbe said the institution was yet to get surplus deliveries.
“The refined gold is not being held, but being disposed of after refining. Holding gold only arises when the country is able to achieve trade surpluses, which is not currently the case.”
Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa said moves to formalise the sector were “at an advanced stage”.
He said Government was working on amending the Mines and Minerals Act. Gold buying centres have also been set up in different parts of the country.
“Yes, we understand the rampant smuggling of gold out of the country is a result of the unregistered illegal small-scale miners who are selling the precious metal to gold dealers.
“We first need to amend the Mines and Minerals Act which puts in place the establishment of title management and secures title deeds by the informal small- scale miners.
“The ministry has since forwarded its proposals to amend the Mines and Minerals Act to the drafting officers in the Prosecutor General’s Office. Hence, the ministry is now waiting for a response from the Prosecutor General’s Office.”
Minister Chidhakwa said Government would give the small-scale miners loans to purchase equipment once the Act is amended.
“We are going to carry out a computerisation drive of the country’s register of mining rights and titles to improve administration and avoid double title allocations.
“Negotiations are also underway to secure lines of credit with both local and foreign investors to support artisanal and small-scale miners.”
For so long, unregistered small-scale gold miners have been operating outside the stipulated channels, thereby prejudicing the State of revenue and large quantities of the mineral.
As Government has already conceded, the effective route to take would be to decriminalise the miners immediately.