Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill: What’s Wrong With It?

The Ministry of Mines recently published The Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill following years of rigorous campaigning by civil society and research institutions and pressured by a boom in other mineral reserves being discovered. The mining sector, indeed, has remained an enclave economy throughout these years, with very little to show, if any, in the communities where resource extraction is taking place.  On the contrary, displacements, violence, pollution and land grabbing are the footprints of extractivism in Zimbabwe. There was hope that a new law, or at the very least an amendment to the existing law, would bring Zimbabwe’s mineral sector up to speed with progressive legislations and best practices in the region. However, contrary to public expectations, in its current form the Minerals Amendment Bill only seeks to consolidate power in the hands of the Mines secretary who spearheaded the drafting of the bill and his principal – the Minister. The bill does not acknowledge the role of parliament in providing checks and balances in the governance of the mining sector and seeks to undermine the power of the Environmental Management Agency by introducing new environmental regulations that annul existing environmental laws

For this reason, CNRG recommends that parliament rejects the proposed bill in its current form as it falls short of the very minimum standards of good corporate governance and calls for an inclusive multi-stakeholder approach leading to the crafting of a law that ensures the mineral sector spearheads domestic resource mobilization and economic recovery of Zimbabwe. More importantly we demand a law that promotes transparency and equitable distribution of the benefits that accrue from mining.

To that end, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) presents a shorter version of its detailed analysis of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill. Here are the main talking points:

  • The Bill attempts to subvert the Power of the Environmental Management Agency by prescribing that EMA can only monitor environmental impacts of mining ‘in consultation and agreement with the relevant officials from the Ministry responsible for mines’. Hitherto the EMA Act Ch 20:27was the only law that superseded the Mines and Minerals Act Ch 21:05.
  • The Mining Affairs Boardcomprises largely of Ministry of Mines staff and presided over by the Secretary. These sweetheart appointments do not provide the much needed checks and balances in the mining sector which is currently suffering from chronic corruption, cronyism and absence of transparency mechanisms
  • Artisanal Mining: The amendment is out of line with government efforts, especially The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe initiatives to ensure that artisanally mined gold is brought into the legitimate chain of custody. The proposed bill falls outside the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) appeal for regularisation and formalisation of artisanal and small scale mining
  • Exploration, Quantification & Valuation of Minerals.The Bill remains silent onexploration, quantification and valuation of minerals before contract negotiation. How can government negotiate good deals when its negotiating from a position of ignorance. The value of minerals ought to be determined scientifically before contract negotiations in order to reduce speculative behaviour by companies and mitigate the effects of price volatility
  • Oversight Role of Parliament: There is no oversight role of parliament in contract negotiation and licensing and throughout the mineral value chain in the amendment. Parliament is more representative and accountable to the public than the Minister and his secretary.
  • Competitive Bidding: the first-comes-first-serves approach adopted in the Bill does not in any way promote competitive bidding and fails to identify strategic investors
  • Access to Information: The Bill is silent on the disclosure of mining contracts and remains defiant on revealing beneficial ownership of mining companies, thus denying citizens of their fundamental right to information concerning the way their national resources are managed. Section 18 of the amendment states that the inspection of the proposed cadastre register ‘may’ be upon payment of a prescribed fee by the citizens. This is denial of access to information.
  • Decentralization of Decision Making: the encroachment of power in the hands of the Ministry of Mines does not by any means promote decentralized and democratized governance of the mining sector
  • Benefit Sharing: The Bill does not clearly spell out how companies should invest in ensuring local development for mining communities affected by extractives
  • Free, Prior & Informed Consent: No mention is done concerning the pivotal principle of Free, Prior, Informed which should be given by communities before any mining activity takes place
  • Gender Equity: gender equity in the mining cycle has not been emphasized for ensuring a proper affirmative action for women to participate and benefit from the sector
  • Transparency & Accountability: The amendment does not create any new mechanism and framework for promoting transparency ensuring that companies are held accountable for their operations.

Tapuwa O’bren Nhachi is the Centre for Natural Resources Governance Research Coordinator as well as a Volunteer with Kumakomo Community Radio Station can be contacted at tapiwa@cnrgzim.org

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