Bat­tle lines drawn over chrome claims

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - BUSINESS NEWS - Ishe­mu­n­y­oro Ching­were Busi­ness Reporter

ON SATUR­DAY July 1, 2017 the Zim­babwe Min­ing and Smelt­ing Com­pany (Zi­masco), the coun­try’s big­gest fer­rochrome pro­ducer, will of­fi­cially sur­ren­der 22 700 hectares of chrome-rich claims to Gov­ern­ment, but far from bring­ing cheer sabres are rat­tling and bows are bent.

While in prin­ci­ple Gov­ern­ment has pledged to hand over the claims to small-scale min­ers who have been ex­ploit­ing them in trib­u­tary ar­range­ments with Zi­masco for years, it has since emerged that some bu­reau­crats in the Min­istry of Mines and Min­ing Devel­op­ment are im­pos­ing their own hand­picked ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

New min­ers have started mov­ing in on claims in Shu­rugwi, Zvisha­vane and Mberengwa in the Mid­lands prov­ince.

They are giv­ing seat­ing ten­ants up to July 1 to move out.

Farm­ers lo­cated in ar­eas where the min­eral can be ex­ploited are also not be­ing spared.

But the “old” min­ers are not budg­ing.

Mr Lawrence Mub­hobho, who has been min­ing chrome for the past 15 years, told The Sun­day Mail Busi­ness that in­di­vid­u­als that are an­gling to take over their claims are name-drop­ping se­nior politi­cians in or­der force them out.

“We have been min­ing here for a long time, some for as long as 15 years, only to be kicked out now,” he said.

“We have been threat­ened by peo­ple who have been com­ing here ever since they heard that Zi­masco had ceded claims say­ing we should leave this place by July 1 or face se­ri­ous con­se­quences.

“These peo­ple use se­nior Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials’ names and our ap­peal to Gov­ern­ment is it should come out clean and tell us the of­fi­cial po­si­tion.”

Like­wise, A1 farm­ers re­set­tled at Reva 36 in Mberengwa Dis­trict said last week they have been told to pave way for min­ers by July 1.

Mr Isaac Chiven­dera, chair­man of a lobby group for small-scale min­ers – the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Zim­babwe Small Scale Min­ers As­so­ci­a­tion – said Gov­ern­ment should sort out the mess.

“These peo­ple who are now com­ing into the sec­tor are just there to dis­rupt this in­dus­try,” said Mr Chiven­dera.

“Where were they all this while when we toiled lob­by­ing Gov­ern­ment to get these claims? We ap­peal to the re­spon­si­ble min­is­ter to stamp his author­ity and kick out these dis­rup­tors off our claims.

“It is also im­por­tant that Gov­ern­ment come out strongly, state its po­si­tion so that there are no in­con­sis­tences in na­tional pol­icy.

“Gov­ern­ment has been mak­ing it clear ever since we started fight­ing for these claims that we, as for­mer Zi­masco trib­u­tary min­ers, will have the right to first re­fusal once these claims have been re­leased,” he added.

In 2015, Gov­ern­ment di­rected Zi­masco and ZimAl­loys, which held more than 80 per­cent of the coun­try’s chrome re­sources then, to cede 50 per­cent of their claims.

The two com­pa­nies also re­lied heav­ily on trib­u­tary ar­range­ments through which they could get ore for pro­cess­ing.

Ini­tially, Gov­ern­ment iden­ti­fied new smelters (largely Chi­nese in­vestors), medium-scale ben­e­fi­ci­a­tion plants and small-scale min­ers who were al­ready work­ing on the claims as des­ig­nate ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Tense en­gage­ments The Sun­day Mail Busi­ness gath­ers that there have been closed­door en­gage­ments be­tween for­mer Zi­masco trib­u­taries and Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials amid rev­e­la­tions that the lat­ter will no longer give the for­mer the right to first re­fusal as promised ear­lier.

Min­utes of a Fe­bru­ary 21, 2007 meet­ing held be­tween Deputy Min­is­ter Mines and Min­ing Devel­op­ment En­gi­neer Fred Moyo and min­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives - the Zim­babwe Min­ers Fed­er­a­tion (ZMF) and the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Zim­babwe Small Scale Min­ers As­so­ci­a­tion - point to a po­ten­tial show­down in the highly-con­tested sec­tor.

Mr Fred­die Ncube rep­re­sented ZMF at the meet­ing, while Mr Antony Msipa led del­e­gates from the As­so­ci­a­tion.

The min­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives told Eng Moyo: “Un­for­tu­nately we are be­ing left out in the very pro­gramme we worked so hard to ini­ti­ate.

“. . . when we vis­ited the PMD’s (Provin­cial Min­ing Di­rec­tor) of­fice in Gweru, the of­fi­cials told us that they have been in­structed to serve on a first come first serve ba­sis and that they do not recog­nise Zi­masco Trib­u­taries.”

Let­ters have also been lodged to Mines Min­is­ter Mr Walter Chid­hakwa.

In a let­ter dated April 5, 2017 ad­dressed to Min­is­ter Chid­hakwa, ZMF in­di­cated that it was be­ing be­trayed.

“We would like to reg­is­ter our ex­treme dis­ap­point­ment with the way the is­sue of Zi­masco ceded claims is be­ing han­dled,” wrote ZMF.

“Much to the con­trary it ap­pears the min­istry has de­cided to dis­place the sit­ting ten­ant who should have been given the first right to re­fusal. Sit­ting ten­ants have been min­ing these claims for over 10 years. Many of our mem­bers are heav­ily in­debted to fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and now run the risk of fac­ing civil im­pris­on­ment.

“We have on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions dis­cussed this is­sue with you in per­son and your pre­de­ces­sors and you have as­sured us that the first re­fusal will be af­forded to the sit­ting trib­u­tary / con­trac­tor and now we won­der what hap­pened (to that prom­ise).”

Ef­forts to get a com­ment from the mines min­istry were fu­tile at the time of go­ing to print.

Min­is­ter Chid­hakwa’s mo­bile phone was un­reach­able, while En­gi­neer Moyo said the mat­ter was ad­min­is­tra­tive.

How­ever, per­ma­nent sec­re­tary Mr Munesu Mon­odawafa re­ferred ques­tions back to Eng Moyo.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.