Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent
THE Ministry of Mines and Mining Development is working on reducing the size of land under Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) in Matabeleland South province following an outcry from miners who are failing to access land for prospecting purposes.

About 95 percent of mining land, which hosts potential gold deposits in the province is under EPOs.

Speaking during a recent stakeholder meeting against corruption within the mining sector held in Gwanda, Provincial Mining Director, Mr Khumbulani Mlangeni, said his office had submitted an application to the Mining Affairs Board requesting land under EPOs in the province to be reduced.

“There has been a concern from miners from the province who have been complaining that they can’t access land for mining as most of the land is under Exclusive Prospecting Orders.

“About 95 percent of the grey stone belt, which is mining land that hosts potential gold is under EPOs in Mat South, which means that it’s taken by companies with the capacity to mine at a large scale,” he said.

“As an office we have written to the Mining Affairs Board to reduce hectarage of land under EPOs so that people can access mining land.

“We have also proposed that all those who submit their applications under EPOs have their hectarage reduced by 25 percent.”

Mr Mlangeni said efforts were also underway to engage multiple claim holders to cede or tribute some of their claims to small-scale miners on a tenure basis.

He said some of the claims were lying idle yet they could be utilised by small scale miners.

“Small-scale miners have also complained that EPOs were taken up by companies they don’t know, which are not locally based.

“There is need for legislation which guarantees locals a stake in EPOs.

“We’re also lobbying for the non-renewal of speculative EPO holders as some haven’t recorded any progress on the ground.

“They are supposed to declare work and progress every six months but some EPOs holders don’t,” he said.

Mr Mlangeni said efforts were also underway to establish sub offices in all districts as they are currently centralised in Gwanda.

Also speaking during the meeting, Ms Siduduzile Masilela, who is the treasurer for Simalu Mining Association said a number of prospective miners were failing to secure mining claims as each time they visited the Ministry of Mines offices they were told that there was no land available for prospecting because of EPOs.

She said a lot of people were now forced to venture into mining because of unemployment.

Ms Masilela said failure to secure claims was causing many to venture into illegal mining.

She said locals were supposed to benefit from the minerals, which were found in their area.

“When people visit the Ministry of Mines’ office they are told that the office isn’t issuing prospecting licenses as there are no claims available.

“We are told that most land is under EPOs and holders of these EPOs are big companies, which are not local,” she said.

Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission manager for research and knowledge management, Dr Onesmus Nyaude, said they carried out a research in various mining districts in the province to find out challenges faced by small scale miners.

He said a report was going to be compiled, which will be submitted to Government.

He said preliminary findings had shown that corruption was a major problem affecting operations of small-scale miners.

The meeting was organised by the Community Youth Development Trust (CYDT) in conjunction with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. — @DubeMatutu