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The need for responsible mining practices in Zimbabwe

Compiled by Nobuhle T Chikuni-Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association

On the 5th of July 2021, the RBZ Governor shared the plans to register all ASM in Zimbabwe in an effort to formalise the miners, promote traceability and know their miners. this was part of the oral evidence he presented before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Climate and Tourism[1]. The Governor highlighted that there has been a sharp increase in the gold deliveries to Fidelity Printer and Refineries from the small-scale miners.

As we wait for coherent policy reforms in the Zimbabwean extractives sector and the registration and/or formalisation of the ASM sector, I felt this was the best time to start talking about the Zimbabwe adopting the responsible sourcing guidelines such as the OECD[2] and the EU regulations on Conflict to increase our gold market options and increase the overall earnings from gold exports.

On 1 January 2021, a new law came into full force, the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation. The EU regulation covers tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold because these are some of the four minerals that are most often linked to armed-conflicts and related human rights abuses, hence the focus on them. The EU Regulation aims to:

  • Ensure that EU importers of 3TG (tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold) meet international responsible sourcing standards, set by the OECD.
  • Ensure that global and EU smelters and refiners of 3TG source responsibly.
  • Help break the link between conflict and the illegal exploitation of minerals.
  • Help put an end to the exploitation and abuse of local communities, including mine workers, and support local development.

The regulation also draws on well-established rules to help stem the trade in conflict minerals. As the world’s largest trading bloc, the EU is a major market, so the regulation marks a big step in tackling the trade in conflict minerals. Countries around the world buy products containing these minerals, so it is important to encourage others to put in place similar measures as well.  And once laws are in place, they also need to be properly implemented.

Zimbabwe falls under both the upstream and the downstream actors at global level, but the focus in this article is on our role as the upstream actors as we grow our reliance on the gold mining sector to generate foreign currency[3].  Gold is one of Zimbabwe’s foreign currency earners, having accounted for US$1,2 billion in annual forex receipts in 2018, translating close to a third of total export earnings. In 2019, 27,650 kgs of gold was delivered to the Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR). The small-scale miners are contributing around 60% of all the gold that is being delivered to FPR[4].  In the year 2021 there has been an upsurge, with the small-scale miners delivering 1000kgs more in June as compared to May 2021[5]. In May 2021 783 kgs were delivered while in July 1798.9kgs have been delivered.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) in 2008. [6]The expulsion from the LMBA meant Zimbabwe was no longer among the elite group of gold producers in the world and had forfeited the benefits derived from trading on the LBMA. The benefits included getting good gold prices and good trading practices.

The biggest buyer that has been buying the Zimbabwean Gold Stock is the Rand Refineries in South Africa. However, South Africa charges a 0.3 levy which affects the overall earnings for Zimbabwe.  Joining the LMBA is an advantage to Zimbabwe as the prices are better. From 2015 the gold production in Zimbabwe improved, with 21 tonnes of gold being produced and that is a prerequisite for a country to be re-admitted into the LBMA. Following the improvement in gold production Zimbabwe has been trying to be re-admitted in the LBMA[7][8]

However, the admission of Zimbabwe into the LBMA has not been approved, and one wonders whether it will it ever be? And what should be done to create a convincing argument for Zimbabwe to be considered for the LMBA.

The gross human rights violations, land degradation and poor law enforcement in the mining sector could be some of the reasons why Zimbabwe’s admission has been questionable. Until Zimbabwean authorities remedy this then it is unlikely that they will meet the criteria set by the LBMA for readmission according to the Bullion post [9]. In addressing this, Zimbabwe should adopt the OECD Guidelines on responsible sourcing among other global transparency initiatives in the Extractives sector. In addition, the LBMA has adopted responsible sourcing. LBMA established the Responsible Gold Guidance for Good Delivery Refiners to combat systematic or widespread abuses of human rights, to avoid contributing to conflict, comply with high standards of anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing practice. In addition, the Guidance has been developed to recognise the increasing importance of having strong corporate governance and addressing environmental and sustainability responsibilities. Meaning all the gold they will be buying should be responsibly sourced and traceable , gold not mined in areas that have human rights violations, have contributed to the degradation of land and  used in money laundering.  Here is another prerequisite Zimbabwe should meet to be able to join the LMBA, adopting the guidelines on Responsible gold sourcing such as the OECD.

Zimbabwe is working towards achieving the 12 billion mining economy by 2023, it is important to ensure that our mining sector improves investor confidence by putting in place measures that ensure that mineral produced in Zimbabwe passes the due diligence test at the global level and people are willing to buy it and invest in the country’s mining sector. The time to start dealing with corruption and the lack of accountability in the mining sector is now. The lack of proper and effective regulation in the mining sector are making it difficult to set up effective traceability systems and at the same time are creating opportunities for opportunists to cash in at the cost of Zimbabwean people. Zimbabwe needs to improve on the Policy Perception Index to ensure maximum benefits from the Mining Sector[10].  All this starts with the adoption of the OECD guidelines and other responsible sourcing initiatives that are being adopted by other mineral rich countries in Africa, if not now then when?

Watch out for the next series as we unpack the responsible sourcing guidelines and what it means for ASM.


[1] https://newzimbabwe.com/6-07-2021-gold-deliveries-in-massive-surge /.

[2] OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas Third Edition

[3] https://www.newsday.co.zw/2019/09/gold-sector-pins-hope-on-small-scale-artisanal-miners/.

[4] https://news.pindula.co.zw/2020/11/05/falling-gold-deliveries-renew-calls-to-end-fprs-monopoly-as-sole-buyer/

[5] https://newzimbabwe.com/6-07-2021-gold-deliveries-in-massive-surge /.

[6] https://www.thezimbabwean.co/2009/04/zim-expelled-from-bullion-market/

[7] https://www.thezimbabwean.co/2009/04/zim-expelled-from-bullion-market/

[8] https://dailynews.co.zw/articles-2014-02-04-zim-pursues-london-bullion-market-readmission/

[9] https://www.bullionbypost.co.uk/gold-news/2019/january/23/could-zimbabwe-be-about-regain-its-lbma-membership/

[10] https://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/zim-has-second-worst-mining-policies-in-africa/

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