Monday, January 07, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) Farmers to own minerals: Mpofu

Farmers to own minerals: Mpofu
Sunday, 06 January 2013 00:00
Emilia Zindi

The Government will soon grant mining rights to farmers on whose land mineral deposits are discov­ered in a move that is expected to fur­ther empower farm owners.

The new dispensation, which will come into effect if Parliament passes amendments that have already been made to the Mines and Minerals Act, also seeks to prevent disputes between farmers and mineral prospectors.

In an interview last week, Mines and Mining Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu said Cabinet had already approved the amendments.
He said the move was essentially tailored to prevent bitter fights between farmers and mining claim holders.

“We are saying that the minerals found on the farms or pieces of land acquired by Government under the land reform programme will be offered to the owners of that land who will be given the first right of refusal,” he said.

“The Mines and Minerals Act is going through serious amendments with Cabinet working on the issue. After this, such disputes will be a thing of the past.

“We want to see this being done expeditiously to avoid more serious disputes on resettlement farms.’’

According to the minister, farmers with land where minerals are discov­ered would be given the opportunity to refuse or accept mining for the resource.

This means any person who wishes to prospect for minerals on a particular farm would first have to con­sult the property owner before seeking a licence from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Develop­ment.

The option of mining would only be given to out­siders if the farmer refuses to exercise his or her right. The principal Mines and Minerals Act empowers any prospecting licence holder to venture onto any prem­ises he or she suspects of holding minerals without necessarily seeking permission from the property owner.

This has over the years resulted in serious disputes between farmers and prospectors.

Dr Mpofu said the new measures would, however, favour property owners.
“They should be accorded the first right of refusal as opposed to the current scenario where one wakes up to find strangers mining on his or her farm with­out their consent,’’ he said, adding that the Mines and Minerals Act supersedes every other law where min­ing is concerned.

“It does not even matter where your house was built; this law supersedes other laws.’’

Commenting on the amendments yesterday, eco­nomic analyst Mr Brains Muchemwa said the new statutes would assist in addressing the property rights regime which has always remained skewed against farmers.

“We were having a situation where the farmers were being subordinate to miners in the case of dis­putes. The farmers could actually be chased away from the farming land, but these amendments give them rights to the land, notwithstanding the fact that most of them do not have title deeds.

“The development also brings about an efficient compensating mechanism to farmers who may be sit­ting on minerals.”

Most of the disputes between farmers and prospec­tors have often required the intervention of law enforcement agents and the courts.
A case in point involves Mr Patrick Kudyarawanza of Hammond Farm in Chegutu who was taken by sur­prise when an unknown group of people invaded his farm, claiming ownership of some gold mining claims.

One of the group members, a Mr J. Beattie, has since constructed a mill on the property. Mr Kud­yarawanza said he was allocated the farm in 2005, but was surprised to see Mr Beattie moving on to the same farm.

Efforts to get a comment from Mr Beattie were fruitless. However, Chief Superintendent Israel Makuwaza of Kadoma Police District Headquarters confirmed the case.

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