Lovemore Zigara, Midlands Correspondent
A SCRAMBLE for chrome mining claims has ensued in the Midlands province with small scale miners accusing Government mining officials of sidelining them in the allocation of claims recently ceded by Zimasco and ZimAlloys.
The two mining firms ceded over half of their mining claims to the State in compliance with the directive by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
Zimasco surrendered 22 000 hectares of land to Government, which has over 800 chrome claims while ZimAlloys ceded 60 percent of 39 175 hectares of ground. The two firms owned over 80 percent of the country’s chrome claims.
Confederation of Chrome Miners’ Association head, Mr Isaac Chivendera, accused mining officials of allocating the released ground to their cronies at the expense of small scale miners who are already on the claims.
“It is us as small scale miners who lobbied Government to push the companies to release the claims but we are now being sidelined. What is surprising is that we see foreigners coming with maps and pegging on claims that are supposed to be allocated to us,” he said.
Mr Chivendere said small scale miners believed the Government’s move to order the big mining companies to surrender the idle claims was meant to empower small scale miners.
“We are appealing to Government to intervene and come up with a clear policy that guides the allocation of these surrendered claims so that we are not shortchanged by corrupt individulas,” said Mr Chivendera.
Another chrome miner, Mr Simon Sigauke, said small scale miners should be given first preference in the allocation of the surrendered claims as they were already working on them.
Ms Jean Butete, another small scale miner, said the Government mining officials were creating uncertainty in the sector as some miners had stopped production.
“We can’t continue working on these claims and investing in them when we do not know the future. We will, therefore, take a wait-and see approach until the issue is addressed by authorities.”
Miners said the latest developments threatened operations and could cripple projected output target of 30 000 tonnes this year.
Small scale miners umbrella body the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federations (ZMF)’s president, Ms Appolonia Munzverengwi, also said chrome mining claims should be given to sitting tenants.
“We are aware of the issue and we raised that with the Minister (Walter Chidhakwa) after we received complaints from the small scale miners. We agreed that priority will be given to the miners who are working on those claims. We are, however, calling on these small scale miners to start applying for the special grants to the relevant offices,” she said.
Mines and Mining Development Ministry secretary, Professor Francis Gudyanga, corroborated the ZMF president’s statement saying the issuance of special grants in the chrome mining sector had been centralised.
“All the special grants will be processed in Harare and no province will be allowed to approve such applications. We are calling on the small scale miners to apply as all tributaries will be put through formal applications,” he said.
The latest developments come as the sector is on a rebound buoyed by firming chrome prices on the international market averaging $150 per tonne. The country is sitting on over one billion tonnes reserves of the mineral.
Zimbabwe has exported 60 000 tonnes of chrome ore since the lifting of the chrome export ban earning the country $10 million in foreign currency.
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