By Brenna Matendere/Stephen Chadenga

MINES minister Winston Chitando has revealed that government has opened a special department in the Mines ministry to deal with issues relating to small-scale miners, popularly known as makorokoza.

“We are glad to announce that my ministry has opened what we call the small-scale miners desk,” Chitando said at the just-ended Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) annual conference in Gweru.

“This is a department that will have the sole responsibility of dealing with all issues affecting small-scale miners. I am glad that President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa agreed that we open this desk and it will go a long way in improving production by the small-scale miners as their issues will be quickly addressed.”

Zimbabwe currently has about 1,5 million small-scale miners who contribute over half of the country’s gold output.

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However, the miners have always complained that stringent laws that criminalise their operations were affecting their operations, leaving them susceptible to black market barons, a situation that was hindering the growth of the industry.

“We are looking towards achieving our goal of hitting the $12 billion milestone in the mines sector. So opening of the small-scale miners’ desk is a great development,” Chitando said.

“We would want to arrange weekly meetings with the leaders of the miners so that all of their concerns are addressed regularly. We look forward to having significant contributions from the gold, chrome and gems sectors.”

Meanwhile, President Emmerson Mnangagwa told the ZMF conference government would fire mining officials who engage in corrupt activities as they affect efforts in the economic turnaround of the country.

“I hear there is rampant corruption by mining officials who demand bribes to process papers,” Mnangagwa said when he addressed the miners on Thursday.

“We will not hesitate to send them home if they engage in such actions. In fact we will fire them.”

Last month, Midlands provincial mining director Nelson Munyanduri and his subordinate, Alfred Tavengana, were arraigned before the courts facing criminal abuse of office charges.

The matter is still pending at the court.