Saturday, May 12, 2012
Foreign miners ripping off Zimbabwe: Mpofu
by Staff Reporter
MINES Minister Obert Mpofu has claimed that foreigners including countries which imposed sanctions on the country continue to benefit from Zimbabwe’s vast mineral wealth while the majority of locals struggle to put food on the table.
Speaking at the 73rd Chamber of Mines Annual General Meeting in Victoria Falls on Friday, Mpofu said miners were resisting efforts to process minerals locally thereby denying the country huge amounts of revenue from by-products that come from processing minerals such as platinum.
"We are aware that our minerals are developing other countries. When they are taken for processing outside the country, the government is prejudiced," Mpofu said.
Zimbabwe is said to have the world’s second biggest platinum reserves after South Africa. The top two global producers, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum, have operations in the country but currently send platinum concentrate to South African refineries for processing.
The government has been pressing the miners to process the minerals locally, but the companies say current production is insufficient to sustain a viable refinery.
Mpofu also the mining sector’s overall contribution to government revenues has been declining even with the discovery of diamonds in the eastern Manicaland province.
"The mining sector used to contribute US$54 million into treasury from diamonds but can no longer do so because we are not processing them locally. We are now contributing about half of the amount. Those who imposed sanction on us are benefitting more," he said.
The government has since increased by up to 5,000 percent a raft of mining fees and levies with officials insisting the review was necessary to increase state revenues.
In addition, authorities have also been pressing the mining industry to comply with the country’s empowerment legislation which is aimed at giving the previously marginalised black majority control of the economy.
Under the policy, foreign companies must transfer ownership of at least 51 percent of their Zimbabwe operations to locals and most of the major miners have already submitted compliance proposals despite fears the legislation could force companies to pull out of the country.
Meanwhile, Mpofu said Zimbabwe remains largely unexplored adding the government was looking at establishing an exploration company to help build an inventory of the country’s mineral wealth and establish what proportion could be commercially exploited.
"We are putting in place modalities for the establishment of an exploration company which will conduct exploration activities and build an inventory of bankable mining projects that can be marketed to investors, both domestic and foreign," he said.
"In line with this development, my ministry has also resumed the processing of Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) which will lead to clearing the backlog and opening up of ground for exploration."