AN environmental and cultural rights lawyer has called for a proper and clear policy framework that can enable small-scale miners to operate without harming the environment while contributing to the economy.
BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
Professor Tumai Murombo suggested this at the just ended Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) winter school 2018 in Victoria Falls.
He was presenting on new business opportunities in Zimbabwe versus environmental, economic, social and cultural rights.
He said statistics proved that artisanal miners were making more profit while degrading the environment and attributed this to lack of governing laws.
“We need to come up with policies that balance the interest of capital versus the environment and our local communities that are affected by economic activities. Let me make reference to the mining legislation in the United States. If you go into that legislation, you will see that there is some effort to accommodate artisenary small-scale miners.
“In December last year [the] Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe reported that 13,2% tonnes of gold came from small-scale miners and the major big-scale miners only produced 11,6% tonnes. The small-scale miners are regarded as criminals, and burglars makorokozas. They are arrested for mining and possessing gold, but they produced more. So is it not time that we go to our legislation and regularise these irregular things?” he queried.
Murombo said the reason why artisanal miners were degrading the environment was because they did not know where to draw the line.
“I am not saying that they are holy. They are digging under schools, under roads, but this is because the country has no regulations. They are regulators and if there is no regulation, you do what you want. I don’t blame them, I blame the people who have designed our mining legislation and framework for their participation. We give them rights, we give them land and then we arrest them for destroying the environment.
“Our laws … were never created to regulate them and what we have seen since the 1960s when we made our mining code is to regulate for interest of big mining companies and forget the small miners, but they were there even before colonisation. It is an art that has been there and if we don’t regulate it — whether enabling or restricting — as long as there is no framework to say where can I do my business, ‘how do I do it, what laws do I need to comply with together with fines that are proportionate to their size and even licences’, nothing will ever change,” Murombo said.
Last year over 200 artisanal miners invaded Matsheumhlope suburb in Bulawayo, operating about 20 metres from residential homes.
Globe Phoenix Primary School, a learning facility situated at an old gold mine in central Kwekwe, has also been targeted by artisanal miners who, over the years, have dug shafts in the school yard and under classrooms.