BY AMANDA NCUBE
For more than six years, Qiniso Ncube from Gwanda district has been working in several mines dotted around Matabeleland South province. Ncube believes he has acquired vast experience to start his own mining venture.
However, 31-year-old Ncube‘s major challenge is to legally acquire mining claims as most land is said to be under exclusive prospecting orders (EPOs).
“As a youth with an interest in mining, it’s my desire to have my own claim,” he said.
“From there I wish to expand my mining activities.
“Unfortunately when I went to the ministry of Mines offices they told me that they were not issuing any prospecting licences as there is no mining land available.
“I have been working for other people on their claims for a long time and I believe I can use the experience that I have acquired over the years to start my own business.”
Ncube and several small-scale miners in the region are facing the same predicament as they struggle to legalise their operations.
They are appealing to the mining authorities to fairly distribute mining claims so that youths and locals can also benefit.
About 95% of mining land which hosts potential gold deposits in Matabeleland South is under EPOs.
This means the land has been acquired by companies with the capacity to mine at a large scale.
However, a vast part of it lies idle.
The mining sector is one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners alongside tobacco.
Gold is expected to contribute US$4 billion earnings per annum by 2023, which is a third of the US$12 billion target for the entire mining industry in the same period.
Calls have been made for the government to focus on formalising the small-scale miners as they produce 60% of the gold in the country.
Failure to access claims has forced some aspiring miners to engage in illegal mining activities.
Prosper Moyo* from Mangwe district has given up hopes of formalising his mining activities due to bottlenecks.
“I don’t bother to register my mining activities anymore because I have failed to obtain a claim on countless occasions,” Moyo said.
“I am always told by mining authorities that there is no land available for prospecting because of EPOs.
“I have seen it better to engage in illegal activities because authorities are failing us yet they are quick to warn us against illegal mining.
“Holders of most of these EPOs are big companies which are not local.
“This is highly unfair as people from other regions are benefiting at the expense of locals who are the rightful custodians of these resources.”
As an intervention measure, the Mines ministry has engaged multiple claim holders to cede or tribute some of their claims to small-scale miners on a tenure basis.
Siduduzile Masilela, who is the treasurer for Simalu Mining Association based in Gwanda, said as women in the mining sector, they were struggling to expand their operations due to lack of access to mining claims.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation Matabeleland South chairman Philemon Mokuele said small-scale miners in the province travel to as far as Harare in order to meet with EPO authorities, but do not get any joy.
Mokuele said the ministry of Mines has to do more than direct EPO holders to distribute some of their claims to small-scale miners.
“There is a need for legislation that guarantees locals a stake in EPOs,” he said.
“Some of these EPO holders are just holding onto the land and not producing.
“However, they continue to have their licences renewed.
“Small-scale miners contribute significantly towards gold production in the country and they should be allocated claims so that they can be more productive.”
However, Matabeleland South acting provincial mining director Khumbulani Mlangeni said following an outcry by miners in the region, the ministry was working on reducing the amount of land under EPOs.
An application to the Mining Affairs Board requesting land under EPOs in the province to be reduced had been lodged, Mlangeni said.
“As an office, we have written to the Mining Affairs Board to reduce the amount of land under EPOs so that people can access mining claims,” he said.
“We have also proposed that all those who submit their applications under EPOs have their hectarage reduced by 25%.”
*This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.
*Not their real names