THE Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has said tributary agreement could be used as one of the ways to account for and formalise eighty-four percent of artisanal and small-scale miners who are not registered as efforts to formalise their operations in order to reduce the incidence of leakages.
According to the International Crisis Group, Zimbabwe is estimated to lose around approximately US$1,5 billion per annum of gold which is smuggled out of the country, a development which has become a major stumbling block as the country seeks to build a US$12 billion mining sector.
Speaking during a familiarisation tour of selected police stations in Bulawayo last year in September, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe said the country was losing at least US$100 million worth of gold every month, which is being smuggled out of the country through porous borders and was Government in the process of rolling out measures to plug the leakages.
ZELA deputy director, Shamiso Mtisi said the huge figures were worrisome and there was need to come up with ways to capture the correct data.
“The figures are huge in terms of dollars which is a great concern and it should actually be of concern to everyone. These are estimates though, the way it was calculated wasn’t stated but this is depriving our cash strapped economy of foreign exchange.
“Whilst, we do not have accurate figures and just relying on estimates as it were, I think what this shows is the need for us to start thinking of how we can capture data which might be difficult but maybe some way should be found to capture that data related to the smuggling of gold,” Mtisi said.
He added that the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development as well as other stakeholders should adopt the model of formalisation as it might contribute in terms of most of the production being accounted for in the formal sector.
Mtisi also noted that there has been an upsurge of people going into artisanal mining and 84 percent of them according to the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) were not registered.
He added: “With a lot of artisanal and small miners not registered that means a lot of production might actually be happening and its not being captured. Fidelity Printers and Refineries (FPR) looks at deliveries and the production levels may not be well captured that’s something that should be looked at in terms of making sure that we closely monitor production if possible we come up with good estimates and ensure that the country is informed about the different resources that are there or being produced.”
Mtisi highlighted that giving out tribute agreements such as what was done at Athens Mine in Mvuma whereby about 30 cooperatives have tribute agreements to work on the disused mine meant that gold coming out of there was most likely going into the formal channel.
He said situations where there was unregulated or no tribute mining by artisanal miners, problems were likely to arise in terms of safety issues and also even in terms of capturing the gold into the formal sector.
“Our situational report last year revealed that at some of the closed mines you have former mine workers who have resorted to gold mining because they have no other alternatives or sources of livelihood. So, they can enter into an agreement with the owners in order for them to produce gold and then they share the produce at that particular mine according to the agreement. That is one way of making sure that at least we continuously improve the system and capture gold into the formal market,” Mtisi added.
He noted that tributary mining might be one way of resolving the issue of formalization by encouraging a group of artisanal miners to go into groups of 10 or 20 to form a cooperative and then they work on a person’s land registered papers.
Zimbabwe produced 21,44 tonnes of gold in 2016, 24,44t in 2017, 33,89t in 2018, 27,589t in 2019, and 19,05t last year with lack of formalisation seriously affecting production and deliveries from small and artisanal miners in 2020.
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