Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu says the Mining Act should be amended as a matter of urgency to legalise gold panning.
He said his ministry has since engaged the Justice and Legal Affairs Ministry to act on the matter.
In recognition of gold panners' importance, the Government has since come up with a new name for them - Artisanal Miners. "We're currently liasing with the Ministry of Justice and hope to come up with a legislation or Instrument for gold panners to operate legally," said Minister Mpofu in an interview.
"The negotiations are at an advanced stage and we expect more gold to be delivered to Fidelity with the operation of panners legally." Minister Mpofu said if gold panning is legalised it will be important to also engage the Environment Management Agency to educate panners on environmental issues.
He added that there was also need to recapitalise Fidelity for it to able to cope with the anticipated increase in gold deliveries once gold panning is legalised. Minister Mpofu hailed gold panners - popularly known as Makorokoza - for being heroes who deserved to be rewarded. "Of all the gold that's delivered to Treasury, the panners contribute about a third yet they continue to be arrested and chased away," he said.
Minister Mpofu said that his Ministry was also looking at coming up with a new law that would allow gold panners to take their gold to police stations for safekeeping, to avoid attracting robbers. Earlier this year, President Mugabe set the tone about legalising gold panners. Addressing thousands of people at Collen Bawn in Gwanda, the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe
Defence Forces, said when gold panners became legalised, they should ensure that they protect the environment. President Mugabe appealed to those interested in gold panning to be licensed to access Government assistance. He said the law that called for the arrest of gold panners was unfair, as it was a legacy of the racial colonial past.
President Mugabe said that people should only be arrested if they tried to smuggle the precious mineral out of the country. There have always been calls for the Government to establish more gold buying centres to allow producers to sell their minerals on a "no questions asked" basis.
Government has been losing a lot of money by criminalising gold panners who end up selling the mineral to foreign buyers who smuggle it out of the country.