Zimbabwean Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere.  Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Zimbabwean Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

THE Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe is fighting the government’s bid to introduce new measures restricting the marketing of minerals to state-run companies and curbing production of diamonds and other "strategic minerals" as the government insists that ownership of mineral claims vests in the president of the country.

Zimbabwe, which has the world’s second-biggest platinum reserves and endowed with vast deposits of gold, chrome, nickel and coal, is developing a new minerals and mining law. A draft of the bill has already emerged and shows that marketing of minerals and commodities will be restricted to state-controlled companies among other measures that the chamber of mines has since said it will resist.

The chamber of mines’ position paper on the government’s proposals argues that mining firms should be left to do their own marketing of minerals, in line with market liberalisation standards.

"The world over producers has the right to market their own minerals based on an approved marketing contract."

An executive at the chamber of mines said the government’s proposed measures were "largely in a confrontational manner" and did not leave room for "input" by the miners despite the fact that the measures would affect their operations.

"We have come up with our own position on the measures, saying this is not conducive for sustainable mining and increased contribution of mining to the economy, and we are making even further recommendations. We hope this will bring some sense into the policy-formulation process," said the executive, who did not want to be named.

Relations between the government in Zimbabwe and mining companies are already strained, with Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere accusing mining companies of "dragging their feet" on the government’s indigenisation policy.

Mimosa mine MD Winston Chitando — who has been replaced by Zimplats CEO Alex Mhembere as chamber of mines president — said on Friday that high mineral royalties were curtailing mineral production in Zimbabwe.

"We do have minerals that are being left behind or not being mined because of the high royalties. We have a number of fragmented charges, most of which you get to know later," said Mr Chitando.

He said investment in the mining sector had been limited while the operating environment had not changed. Mining officials told Business Day that there has been limited mineral exploration in the past year.

Mr Mhembere said the mining sector needed a "policy framework that allows" the sector to meet its long-term commercial targets demanded by investors. He added that the chamber of mines would engage the government on new policy formulation for the mining sector.

"We will contribute effectively to the ongoing development of a new mining policy. We do not regard our role as opposition to government but partners seeking the same national goal and aspiration," he said.

Godknows Njowa, a mining adviser at Venmyn Deloitte SA, said "the problem with indigenisation is the uncertainty it creates". He said that demands by the government for platinum mining companies to set up a refinery should be supported by guaranteed power supply.

Zimbabwean miners and industry companies are battling power outages which have crippled production and operations.

Prince Mupazviriho, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development said control of mineral claims in Zimbabwe was vested in the resident. He also said unused claims would be taken over by the state following the government’s bid to take over land belonging to Zimplats.