MUTARE-A public interest environmental law organisation has implored government to review mining fees saying the new fees regime will hinder progress in the mineral value chain, as it relegates a productive section of the sector into the black market.
In a statement, Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) said some small-scale miners were finding it difficult to afford the previous fees and will not be able to regularize their operations due to prohibitive amounts demanded.
“The recently announced charges will have implications on the participation of locals in the mineral value chain. Recently there have been efforts to revamp the industry to make sure that it contributes the expected US$12 billion to the economy.
“The high fees are now exclusionary and will force the local ASM artisanal and small-scale miners to engage more in illegal lower tires of the value chain,” reads the ZELA statement.
ZELA also sounded an ominous warning that these licensing fees would send artisanal miners into the illicit trade, promote corruption and smuggling of gold.
“Increasing the licensing fees by 800% defies logic to formalize and promote business ventures in the artisanal and small-scale mining space. The move has potential to exacerbate corruption and illicit smuggling.
“The high fees are now exclusionary and will force the local ASM to engage more in illegal lower tires of the value chain.
“It remains a challenge when the growth of ASM is not supported and promoted by favorable policies to encourage formalization,” further reads the ZELA statement.
Miners’ representative body, the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) also chipped in with the chief executive officer Wellington Takavarasha saying they have already started engagements with the Minister.
“The newly gazetted prices have shocked us as ZMF. We have started engaging the minister, who is also ZMF patron, to have the fees revised downwards looking at the economic fundamentals. The new fees will obviously see a surge in illegal mining activities against the formalization zeal.”
Zimbabwe roughly has about 30 000 registered small-scale miners and about 500 000 illegal miners, while over a million people benefit indirectly from the informal mining sector.
In recently gazetted mining license fees, Mines and Mineral Development minister Winston Chitando pegged an ordinary prospecting licence was previously capped at $1 000 and is now US$100, which is $8 300 at the prevailing auction rate.
Registration as an approved prospector now costs US$4 000 up from $20 000, with an application for revocation of forfeiture now US$1 000, up from $5 000. Application for a mining lease is now US$2 000, up from $10 000.
Other charges that were increased included application for a special mining lease, which is now pegged at US$5 000, up from $50 000, while an application for protection against forfeiture is now US$100, up from $500.
Minister Chitando also pegged an application for a special grant to mine at US$2 000, up from $10 000, including an increase for a custom milling licence of US$2 000, up from $25 000 per year and the fine for operating without custom milling licence now stands at US$5 000, up from $25 000.