Bulawayo — Farmers' perennial conflict with miners over the latter superseding the former, headline a cocktail of reforms in a proposed mining bill to repeal provisions which give mining supremacy over other activities.
The conflicts have been a major drawback on artisanal and small-scale mining, despite its lion's share contribution to mineral production, perpetuating irresponsible business practices.
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) deputy director Shamiso Mutisi told delegates at the ongoing Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba (ZAMI) that provisions to solve farmer, miner land use conflict will be key in the amendment of the mines legislation.
Mutisi said laws should respond to needs of local communities to reduce conflict and promote responsible investment, in the largely lucrative but opaque extractive sector.
"We are working very closely with the parliament and the Ministry of Mines to make sure that the laws that we have respond to the needs of local communities.
"Even for investors, who are coming should understand the issue of farmer, miner conflicts, these are the risk related questions which can enhance responsible mining.
"Farmer, miner conflicts are prevalent that's definitely one of the key issues that will be addressed by the Mines and Minerals amendment bill so it is quite important for us to pay particular attention to those provisions," said Mutisi.
Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development permanent secretary Onisimo Moyo confirmed that government was at an advanced stage of drafting the new law as well as incorporating stakeholder submissions.
He said government will advance amendments in two months, with a draft of bill scheduled for submission to the Mines and Minerals Development parliamentary portfolio committee for debate by the end of September.
"Our expectation is that the first draft will be finalized by the end of this month, and we have committed to parliament that by the end of next month we will have the final draft for consideration by the committee and other due processes that follow thereafter.
"We are putting our ears on the ground so that whatever we put in the amendment is practical and guided by these submissions," he said.
Moyo also said the proposed law will compel the Mining Affairs board, the highest administrative board of mining affairs, to incorporate a gender quota.
For the first time, artisanal and small-scale miners will be clearly defined, with a view of setting up a dual fees structure to ensure licenses are responsive, said Moyo.
"The issue of formalization of artisanal miners is also incorporated in the bill before there was no mention in the current Act, but in these amendments, we have incorporated the term artisanal and small-scale miner.
"It is our hope that once this is incorporated, we are also going to trim it down even when it comes to the fees structure in the mining license we should have a section where small scale miners are mentioned so that we can come up with a dual structure," said Moyo.
Philemon Mukwili a small-scale miner in Gwanda acknowledged existing conflict between miners and farmers and called for the amendment to balance the needs of the two sectors.
He said while farmers have the preserve of tilling the land, miners are now causing rampant deforestation and environmental damage without requisite rehabilitation compromising farming activities.
"There is a serious problem between miners and farmers because farmers are now demanding a share from the miners but the current law clearly states that the mining policy supersedes everything.
"Miners have a right to mine the minerals which are underground and the farmers will be dealing with the top part but now the miners are now deforestrating the farms and they are not even rehabilitating areas which is causing a serious challenge especially for farmers who are into cattle ranching.
"There is a need for a balanced policy which covers both farmers and miners to reduce conflicts which are prevalent," said Mukwili.