The artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) session was one of the main topical sessions of the 6th edition of the Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba (ZAMI2017), held on 04 and 05 October 2017 at Holiday Inn, Bulawayo. Rightly so, the session was themed “Ease of Doing Business Reforms: A Focus on Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining.” A Mining Technical Working Group (TWG) on ease of doing business reforms, comprising of government, business and civil society organisations, is keen on recommending removal of impediments to ASM. This policy thrust is motivated by the indispensable contribution of ASGM to the country’s total gold production, a key foreign currency earner. Recently, ASM gold production has surpassed the output of primary or large-scale gold miners.
Given that directly, 500,000 people depend of ASGM, grassroots participation in policy making process becomes fundamental. It is within this context, the session on ASGM was sculptured to amplify the voices of ASM associations on ease of doing business reforms at national level. It is worthwhile to note that at district level, ZELA helped ASM associations of Bubi (ASMinBubi), Gwanda (ASMinGwanda) and Zvishavane-Mberengwa (ASMinZvish) to compile their key asks on ease of doing business reforms. At provincial level, a similar process was undertaken for Matebeleland North and South Provinces (ASMinMatSouth : ASMinMatSouth). Key asks for Matebeleland South ASM ease of doing business reforms are available here.
The ASM panel comprised of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), Women in Mining of Bubi district and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA). PACT moderated the ASM session. RBZ is the sole buyer, refiner and exporter of gold, a key player spearheading the “no questions asked policy” to support artisanal gold miners. In addition, RBZ is supporting ASGM through a $40 million loan facility to boost gold production. Therefore, the presence of RBZ on the panel was a welcome development.
ZMF is the national mother board to all ASM associations in Zimbabwe. Women’s voices were represented by Bubi women in mining. ZELA as a member to the mining TWG on ease of doing business, was on the panel to share key developments on policy and practice reform proposals targeted at ASM.
Below are key highlights of ASM session on ease of doing business reforms;
- RBZ should rethink its policy to pay gold by from by artisanal and small-scale miners, 60% cash in US dollars and 40% as bond notes. Suppliers of goods and services needed for gold production are demanding payments in US dollars or charge a premium for paying in bond notes. Artisanal and small-scale miners are therefore cornered and may find solace in selling gold at the parallel market which offers 100% foreign currency payment for gold, boosting illicit financial flows (IFFs). RBZ explained that the ASM sector should understand that foreign currency is needed to finance other critical sectors like health and manufacturing. 60% payment in foreign currency is the best that government can afford now. Miners recommended that RBZ should set up stores that supply inputs to artisanal and small-scale gold producers to guarantee supplies at favourable prices.
- The $40 million gold mobilisation fund has only benefited a few. So far, $30 million has been disbursed and less than 180 people have benefited. The loan requirements, mainly collateral, are too steep for majority artisanal and small-scale gold miners. The miners recommended that RBZ should review the requirements and use documents on gold sales to the RBZ as collateral. RBZ should also disclose how many men and women have benefited from the loan scheme.
- Decriminalise gold possession. According to the Gold Trade Act (Chapter 21:03) it is illegal for one to be in possession of gold without a valid mining permit or a licence to buy gold. This piece of legislation was inherited from the colonial regime. It was recommended that artisanal gold mining should be legalised through a special permit that is accessible and affordable.
- The costs of compliance are impeding ease of doing business for many artisanal and small-scale miners. Artisanal and small-scale miners lamented that they are supposed to folk out $4,000 to pay a consultant undertake Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), $500 for a permit to purchase explosives and another $500 as storage fees for explosives. RBZ representative, Mr Masawi encouraged ASM associations to take advantage of the on-going national pre-budget public consultations on reduction of various fees paid by the miners.
- Violence is hurting women participation in the ASGM sector. There are frequent cases of violence mainly carried out by machete wielding people known as “MaShurugwi.” Women feel unsecure and are afraid to walk in the forests to access their mining sites because of proximal attacks done by MaShurugwi.
- Operationalise the computerised mining cadastre system to stifle corruption and disputes in the allocation of gold mining claims.