Government has been urged to make public, information on mining contracts it signed with several investors to remove speculation that some minerals are being signed off for a song.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Zimbabwe has over the years signed several multi-million dollar mining contracts with foreign investors.
The latest deal saw the country last month signing a US$3 billion platinum deal with Russia amid reports that a secret arms deal was behind the arrangement.
The US$750 million Essar deal for the takeover of Ziscosteel was also mired in controversy amid squabbles between the partners over ownership of mineral claims. The government this year eventually agreed to transfer 80% of the rights to India’s Essar, but operations at the now christened Newzimsteel are still to commence.
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) director Mutuso Dhliwayo told members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy recently that the Mines and Minerals Act should make provision for access to information on contracts negotiated by government.
“If information on mining contracts negotiation is made public, people can actually help government with suggestions as they negotiate, and it is in line with the new constitution where access to information is very critical,” said Dhliwayo.
“Communities should also be given a chance to speak when contracts are negotiated and there is need for disclosure of ownership so that people know who the real beneficiaries are.”
Glen View North MP Fani Munengami (MDC-T) said government had entered into bad contracts favouring multinational companies because of lack of information in terms of how much mineral resources the country had.
Another Zela director Shamiso Mtisi said mining contracts entered into should clearly spell out the social responsibility programmes and community obligations of investors, as well as employment opportunities for Zimbabweans.
“Some contracts may favour a foreign investor or nation in that they may provide for the procurement of certain goods and services from the country where the foreign investor comes from, or where the financing institution is resident,” he said.
“There is need for consultation of local communities by mining companies prior to the contract.”
Mtisi said mining contracts required social impact assessments and action plans to address potential impact of mining operations, displacements, land rights and customs, provision of housing, health facilities, sanitation and payment of compensation for any damage to crops, buildings and trees, as well as measures to conserve the environment.