Unutilised mining claims up for repossession

Dumisani Nsingo
Bulawayo Bureau
Government has resolved to repossess all unutilised mining claims starting from January next year as part of a broader agenda aimed at enhancing production in the sector as the country gears to attain middle income status by 2030.

Some speculators with influential positions in Government and some investors have been accused of holding on to mining claims and denying the authorities the opportunity to reallocate them to serious investors.

This obtaining situation has resulted in the mining sector failing to realise its full potential. The mining sector accounts for between 12 and 16 percent of the GDP and given that some minerals are beneficiated outside Zimbabwean borders, while others are smuggled out, this results in the country failing to account for what it produces.

In an interview with our Bulawayo Bureau on the sidelines of the Mine Entra conference on Thursday, Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando said the investors and holders of mining titles, especially those of precious metals, risk losing them if they do not start work on them.

“The use it or lose it principle has always been there in the Mines and Minerals Act, especially relating to special metals. It’s very clear that special metals can only be protected if you are spending capital expenditure (on them) or if you are working on it. This provision (use it or lose it) has always been there so it’s a question of us enforcing it and we have said from January next year, it will be reinforced vigorously,” he said.

The country’s precious metals include platinum, gold and silver.

Minister Chitando said the holders of mining titles have to spend capital or work on them in order to obtain renewal of title.

“You have to be spending capital or producing before you can renew any special metal claim. It’s within the law, the original bill, not even the new amendment. It has never been implemented but from January 2019, it will be implemented vigorously. So if you have a special metals claim and you are not working on it, from January too bad, you lose it,” he said.

Early last year, the Government forfeited more than 1000 unutilised gold mining claims with owners holding onto them for speculative purposes.

Responding to a question from a delegate during a Mine Entra round table session, Minister Chitando said the Government is likely to increase the issuance of Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) next year as part of its efforts to ramp up mineral production.

“Since around 2007-2008, the Government has not been processing the issuance of new EPOs. At the start of the new dispensation, there were only three EPOs in place, right now as we talk there are over 20 EPOs which have been approved or are being approved. I think conservatively, we should have by early next year over 30-40 EPOs, which will be approved.

He said EPOs are important for the country to quantify its mineral resources as well as plan for future mining activities.

In 2012, Government withdrew nearly 100 EPOs amid concerns that investors were holding the mining rights for speculative purposes.

An EPO confers the exclusive right to prospect for specified minerals in any defined area in Zimbabwe. The EPO is obtained through an application made to the Mining Affairs Board.

The maximum possible period of holding on to an EPO, according to mining laws, is six years. Initially, three years are granted although there is a possible extension of three more years.

From time to time, licence holders are obliged to submit work programmes to be carried out in the next six to 12 months as well as work done in the past six to 12 months.