BULAWAYO, 3 JUNE 2008 – The Zimbabwean government says it will soon unleash the police for a fresh crackdown on the mining industry with the objective of the seizing unexploited mining claims so that they may be forfeited to the State and eventually parceled out to locals in line with its new 100 per cent indigenization drive.
The last police crackdown on mining, which was focused on small-scale gold mines was took place between November 2006 and February 2007 and forced over 3000 indigenous small-scale miners out of business.
Mines and Mining Development minister Amos Midzi says the government has realized that many companies are holding onto unexploited claims for speculative purposes when the country has many potential indigenous entrepreneurs who can make good use of such claims.
“These people, whether individuals or companies, must develop their claims or lose them. Many foreign owned companies are sitting on vast claims which they are using for speculative purposes.
"The prices of most base metals, especially gold and platinum which are abundant in this country, are still going up on the international market and that creates a rich ground for speculation. Our resources must be put to good use,” Midzi says.
He said any claims seized by the government would be given out to deserving locals. However he also hinted that they may still be given to foreign investors, some of them Russians and Chinese.
“We have been engaging investors from these countries who are keen to invest in the mining sector. We are still considering their offers and proposals, but we are really keen to do business with them,” Midzi says.
Midzi says the crackdown will come when parliament, which has officially been non-existent since the March 29 elections, reconvenes to debate the draft Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill.
The Bill, which was presented in parliament in December 2007, deals with amendments general provisions of the acquisition and maintaining exploration and mining titles.
It also provides for the granting of mining leases based on the life of mine principals and provides for different ways of acquiring mining titles for large and small-scale operations with a special provision for changing between the two depending on the size of operations.
The Bill also seeks to retain Special Mining Leases but says special grants would apply only to coal and hydro-carbons.
The second component deals with indigenization and economic empowerment and forms the basis of the government’s argument for a need to grant locals a 51 per cent ownership stake in all current and future foreign owned mining companies.
The indigenization clause has caused concerns across the world that its implementation may ring the death bells for an industry already on the brink of collapse as Zimbabwe’s economic and political crisis worsens.