BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
Parliament’s Mines Portfolio Committee yesterday raised concern over the proliferation of gold mines amid reports that gold smuggling to South Africa and the Middle East had increased.
The committee is in Kariba where it is discussing the gold production chain with the Mines ministry and other stakeholders.
Committee chairperson Edmund Mkaratigwa said: “We have heard that several gold mines have been reopened, while others are expanding their operations. However, there are disturbing reports of gold smuggling, which finds its way to the Rand Refinery in South Africa, Dubai, in the Middle East and other places on the globe.
“Right now the governor of the Reserve Bank (of Zimbabwe (RBZ) John Mangudya) has introduced gold coins and there are so many questions regarding how these will transform our economy for the better. As a country we need a sustainable model to export our gold as we need foreign currency to meet the needs of our economy.”
Mkaratigwa pointed out that because the gold mining sector was strategic for revenue mobilisation, gaps in the Gold Trade Act must be dealt with to curb smuggling and gold leakages.
“Sadly there are leakages and a weak legal framework, which is making it difficult for citizens to fully benefit from these minerals. There has been proliferation of illegal mining sites, the setting up of unregistered hammer mills, unregistered gold buyers and many mining disputes. There seems to be no solution in sight towards addressing all these challenges, and there has been extensive damage to the environment, due to these illegal mining operations,” he added.
Mkaratigwa, who is Zanu PF MP for Shurugwi South, claimed that some miners were name-dropping political leaders in order to justify their illegal activities.
On women miners, he suggested that the RBZ or Fidelity Printers and Refiners must set up a specific fund to support their activities.
Other legislators also indicated that they had witnessed rivers being diverted or polluted, as well as deforestation due to illegal gold-mining activities.
The Members of Parliament called for enforcement of policies that deal with environmental issues, which will entail that miners, farmers and other stakeholders play their part to safeguard the environment.
Speaking at the same event, Mines deputy minister Polite Kambamura said: “The Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill will be a game-changer in the country as it will treat both miners and farmers equally in the utilisation of the land and extraction of minerals. The Bill will touch on the relationship between farmers and miners’ rights to land.”
Kambamura added that the Bill would be brought before Parliament in two months, and urged MPs to ensure that it is aligned to regional and international
Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe chief executive officer Isaac Kwesu said: “There is need for government to relax the marketing arrangement and allow gold producers to export their gold and use the funds to raise capital. Most gold producers
continue to face power outages, which result in production stoppages and output losses.”