The countryâ€™s mining industry, which is envisaged to play a critical role in the attainment of positive economic growth rates, has once again come under the spotlight amid calls by minerals exploration experts for government to invest in geological survey to quantify the countryâ€™s mineral wealth given the current research gap within the industry.
When Cecil John Rhodesâ€™s Pioneer Column invaded the land between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers in 1890, his major aim was to take control of mineral rich Zimbabwe.
What Rhodesâ€™ band of mercenaries was primarily concerned with was to forcefully take mining claims from indigenous people and to ensure that the so called natives remain ignorant of information regarding the countryâ€™s mineral wealth.
The colonial government went on to enact laws which protected people with mining claims.
Over a century, since the Pioneer columnâ€™s invasion and over thirty years after independence, some of those laws are still haunting Zimbabweans as it is highly likely that a Rhodesian who left in 1980 can still return and claim ownership of a mining claim.
Concerns have been raised over outdated geological data regarding the countryâ€™s vast mineral resources as well as the inherited colonial regulations, a situation which has affected planning and projections.
It is against this background that stakeholders in the sector are calling for comprehensive policy re-alignment and exploration work to ascertain the extent of the countryâ€™s mineral wealth.Â Â
Exporien Mining Managing Director, Mr Sam Chikowore called upon relevant government departments to embark on major surveys to establish the extent of the countryâ€™s mineral wealth given the obtaining outdated data.
â€œYou have a situation where the government and investors are relying on data generated from exploration work by companies such as De Beers. It is high time the government embarks on major exploration work particularly in the diamond industry where it is not clear how much reserves we have,â€ saidÂ Mr Chikowore.
Major exploration work was carried out by companies such as De Beers in the 1980s as well as the aeromagnetic survey by Canadian International Development (CIDA) which only covered about 65% of the country excluding the Eastern Highlands.
The advent of satellite has made it possible for any interested party to carry out an aeromagnetic survey, a situation which has made it possible for Zimbabweâ€™s detractors to gain strategic information on the countryâ€™s mineral wealth.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation Chief Executive Officer, Mr Wellington Takawarasha, who bemoaned lack of geological data on the Marange fields, emphasised the significance of up to date geological information in investment decision and long term planning.
â€œThe Ministry of Finance should channel funds towards such surveys so that as a country, we are able to both quantify and qualify our mineral wealth. Such information is key to investors and also for governmentâ€™s long term plans,â€ Mr Takawarasha said.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, Mr Thankful Musukutwa, who acknowledged the research gap and the need for policy changes, said the Minerals Bill, which is now at an advanced stage, will address some of the loopholes in the current Mines and Minerals Act.
â€œWe acknowledge the loopholes in the Mines and Minerals Act and the Minerals Bill has as its key objective the need to address the gaps and ensure that the countryâ€™s resources are used to the benefit of the country. As for the geological data, we are in the process of exploration work to quantify the extent of our mineral wealth in the eastern highlands, said Mr Musukutwa.
The country has over 40 minerals including gold, chrome, platinum, asbestos as well as the recently discovered diamonds.
While it is estimated that the Marange Diamond field is the largest diamond reserve in the world, covering around 60 hectares, there is no official exploration survey carried out to quantify the countryâ€™s diamond reserves.