Riverbed miners risk 10 years’ jail

Source: Riverbed miners risk 10 years’ jail | The Herald August 20, 2016

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Persons conducting riverbed mining now risk a 10-year imprisonment term while the State will also confiscate their equipment. This is contained in the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill. The Bill was gazetted last week. It applies the use it or lose it principle on people holding claims for speculative purposes. Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa (pictured) is expected to table the Bill in Parliament for debate soon.

While the Bill seeks to tighten several gaps that had been observed in the mining sector, the major highlight would be the criminalisation of river bed mining which has been rampant across the country.

It was most pronounced in Mazowe and Penhalonga were dams were at risk of siltation.

Clause 391A provides as follows “(1) Subject to subsections (3) and (4) no person shall undertake any mining operations on any riverbed except where such persons are part of a joint venture partnership with Government to do so. (2) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable (a) if there are no special circumstances in the particular case, and the case involves strategic minerals, to imprisonment for a period of not less than five years or more than 10 years.”

The Bill stipulated that only the Government would reserve the right to carry out riverbed mining should that be necessary.

“Where the court is satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, the property is the proceeds from the commission of an offence the court shall order that it be confiscated,” read Clause 391E(3) of the Bill.

The proposed law empowers the minister responsible for mining to cancel mining rights if operations failed to commence within a reasonable period or failed to declare output and provide false returns.

“The minister may do either or both of the following (a) by written notice served on the miner concerned, notify the miner concerned of his or her intention to cancel his or her rights in relation to the mining location concerned, and call on the miner to show cause, within such reasonable period as may be specified in the notice, why such rights should not be cancelled (b) direct any person employed in his or her ministry to conduct an investigation into the nature and extent of any mining operations that have been conducted on the mining location concerned,” reads the Bill.

Ministers would be required to make certain payments to local authorities in terms of Clause 76 while child labour would also been outlawed.

Clause 70 gives precedence to mining over farming.

“Subject to Section 180(12) the owner or the occupier of land on which registered mining location is situated shall retain the right to graze stock upon or cultivate the surface of such location insofar as such grazing or cultivation does not interfere with proper working of the location for mining purposes,” read the Bill.

The Bill listed 19 minerals that are considered as strategic on account of their importance to the economic, social, industrial and security development of the country.

The minerals are coking coal, natural gas or coal bed methane, iron ore, uranium, chrome, platinum group metals, phosphate ore, beryllium, lithium, tin, tantalite, rare earths elements, natural graphite, magnesite, tungsten, antimony, manganese, fluorspar and caesium.

Clause 16 provides for Cadastre registration of mining rights and titles which is a comprehensive register covering the whole country.

It will have issues such as name of every holder of mining right, chronological records of date and time of applications, contact details, receipt numbers of prescribed fees, nature of application, date of approval or rejection, particulars of any renewal, cancellation or suspension of registration.

It would be one of the responsibilities of the Cadastre Registrar to collect fees for processing of application for mineral titles, annual service fees or any other services that could be prescribed.

“Any person may, on payment of the prescribed fee, if any, inspect the Cadastre Register at any reasonable time at the head office of the Mining Cadastre or at such other places as the Cadastre Registrar may specify in the Gazette,” reads Clause 18 of the Bill.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development is expected to conduct public hearing to get people’s views while the Parliamentary Legal Committee would also study it to establish whether it is consistent with the Constitution.