Friday, June 13, 2008

Zim threatens to seize mines

By: Oscar Nkala

The Zimbabwe government says is considering seizing unexploited mining claims so that they may be parceled out to locals in line with its indigenisation drive.

The last police crackdown on mining, which was focused on small-scale gold mines, took place between November 2006 and February 2007 and forced over 3 000 indigenous operators out of business.

Mines and Mining Development Minister Amos Midzi says the government has realised that many companies are holding on to unexploited claims for speculative purposes when the country has many potential indigenous entrepreneurs who can make good use of the 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, as well as precious metals such as gold and platinum, which are abundant in this country, are 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 government will be given to deserving locals. However, he also hints that they may be given to foreign investors, including 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.

He says the crackdown will come when Parliament, which has officially been nonexistent 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 to the general provisions of the acquisition and maintaining of exploration and mining titles.

It also provides for the granting of mining leases based on the life-of-mine principle 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 will apply only to coal and hydrocarbons. The second component deals with indigenisation and economic empowerment.

President Robert Mugabe's government wants locals to hold a 51% stake in all current and future foreign-owned mining companies.

The indigenisation clause has caused concern across the world, with commentators suggesting that its implementation may ring the death knell for an industry already facing severe difficulties as Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis worsens.

Source: Mining Weekly

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