Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Reporter
THE country is losing an estimated $5 million worth of gold per month due to mining disputes, an official said.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) first vice-president Mr Ishmael Kaguru said there was a need to expedite resolving mining disputes as this was affecting production.
He said it was estimated that each of the country’s seven gold mining districts was losing an average of 20 kilogrammes of the yellow metal due to non-production due to conflicts arising from ownership of mines. Matabeleland South has the most disputes largely due to the fact that it is the biggest producing province in the country.
“We estimate that we are losing about 20 kilogrammes of gold valued at $760 000 in each of the seven gold mining districts due to disputes and that translates to over $5 million a month being lost. The amount can even be higher than that as these are only estimates based on that we have an average of 20 disputes per district and also factoring the resources which the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development use in their efforts to resolve these dispute, the amount lost is even higher than that,” said Mr Kaguru.
He said most of the disputes relate to over-pegging problems where more than one person or company are registered to mine the same location or alleged connivance between ministry officials and unscrupulous miners and farmers.
“Justification of dispute is done by mining surveyors but the problem lies with the peggers who most of the times are responsible for deliberately overlapping beyond one’s claim in favour of another party that might have given them a kick back.
“The peggers are also found wanting in that they peg individuals on claims that are due for forfeiting and there tends to be mayhem if such a claim is revoked. In all this the peggers connive with officials from the ministry,” said Mr Kaguru.
Peggers are trained and licensed by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
“The only way to stop this (over pegging) is to get qualified personnel from universities or Zimbabwe School of Mines with a diploma or degree to be a surveyor because the peggers we have are not surveyors. These disputes are costing us a lot in terms of production because they take long to resolve. Of course we expect the new Mines Affair Board which now has small-scale miners’ representatives to look into the issue but we need District Mines Affairs Board to be put in place to enable us to cut the period of resolving disputes as the disputes take six months or years to resolves,” said Mr Kaguru.
ZMF public relations manager Mr Dosman Mangisi said there was need for the peggers to be affiliated to the small-scale miners’ body so as to closely monitor their conduct.
“Most mining disputes are happening where there is potential of high production. As ZMF we are calling on zero tolerance on mining disputes as we get geared for the Command Mining Programme and those that are creating them should be shown the exit door. We have also realised that the proper channels of addressing or monitoring these disputes are not being followed as the mines are shut by police officers instead of Mines Inspectors and this further exacerbates corruption,” said Mr Mangisi.
Former ZMF president and one of the country’s renowned gold miners, Mr Trynos Nkomo said mining disputes had an adverse effect on production.
“Obviously mining disputes affect production depending on the nature of the dispute. If there is a dispute between two or more parties work will be disrupted because all the parties will be claiming ownership of that particular mine and there will be little or no activity taking place,” he said.
Mr Nkomo said most of the mining disputes arise following a discovery while others are a result of lack of proper claims demarcations.
“Most disputes are a result of an individual taking advantage of a discovery and in most cases the discovery is mined illegally without the owner of the claim’s consent. Thereafter the people involved tend to fight over the resource mostly due to greed.
“The other cause of mining disputes is the lack of proper boundaries demarcating claims while the other issue is the slow pace in issuing mining rights with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development taking long to regularise operations,” he said.
ZMF chief executive officer Mr Wellington Takavarasha concurred with Mr Nkomo’s sentiments saying that most mining disputes were a result of greed which arise mostly after new gold discoveries.
“Mining disputes disturb the mining sector’s contribution to the fiscus. According to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development if ever there is a mining dispute at a particular mine operations have to stop and the matter is dealt with by the ministry and if it is not resolved it’s taken to the courts and on most occasions the magistrates don’t give a determination promptly, it takes time,” said Mr Takavarasha.
He however, said some sections of the Mines and Mineral Act gives first preference to the one that might have started extracting the mineral as its rightful owner.
“Of course the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development has a Dispute Committee which is chaired by the Chief Mining Engineer but we feel that committee should have a representative of the small-scale miners because most of the mining disputes involve small-scale miners, you rarely find big mines being involved in disputes,” said Mr Takavarasha.
An expert in mining said mining disputes surfaced in 1995 and the Mines and Mineral Act was “rather silent when it comes to mining disputes. It doesn’t give rights to stop mining in the event of a dispute, it’s only a prerogative or tacit arrangement by the Ministry of Mines to solve the dispute”.
The expert said the ministry has over the years tried in vain to quell the mining disputes transferring and reassigning mining commissioners and other key staff alleged to be involved in the bungling of claims allocations, corruption and general incompetence but it has kept persisting.
One of the country’s biggest small-scale gold producer and winner of the Best Women Gold Producer and Best Miller at the inaugural 2016 Gold Sector 2016 Awards in January, Mrs Siphiwe Gasha stopped operations at her mine in Kezi in October last year following a dispute. Mrs Gasha has been mining for the past 15 years and produces an average of three kilogrammes a month.