GOVERNMENT has sanctioned an audit on all mining companies operating in the country against the backdrop of massive revenue leakages and smuggling of precious minerals.
Experts say Zimbabwe has over 40 base minerals and several precious stones such as diamonds, yet it still remains an paradox that a nation with one of the largest known diamond and platinum deposits in the world has nearly half of its population living in extreme poverty.
Official figures show that the capital-intensive mining sector contributes over 50% of export earnings although experts say more could be realised if the authorities plug leakages. Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa told a post-cabinet press briefing that the audit will commence next month.
The authorities are hopeful that the mining sector, which has since overtaken agriculture as the key economic driver, will register strong growth in the short to medium term, driven by improved output in gold and platinum group metals, among others.
“Cabinet agreed that for a period of two months, May and June 2023, a Responsible Mining audit will be conducted countrywide. The objective of the initiative is to ensure that all mining operations are conducted in accordance with the country’s laws,” Mutsvangwa said.
“The audit team will comprise members from the following ministries, departments and agencies: Mines and Mining Development; Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development; Local Government and Public Works; Energy and Power Development; Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry; Departments of Immigration; and Labour; the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority; the Environmental Management Agency; and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. The ministry of Mines and Mining Development will coordinate the audit which is set to start on 10 May, 2023.”
The paradox of plenty or the resource curse is how some analysts have described the correlation between Zimbabwe’s vast mineral endowment and the country’s economic misfortunes.
Critics say Zimbabwe’s economic situation has been epitomised by grand looting, bad policy and institutional malaise, factors which are well documented. The authorities, on the other hand, blame the country’s colonial history, the invisible hand and sanctions imposed by the West at the turn of the millennium for this outturn.
The diamond rush after the mass discovery of diamonds in Marange, the human rights abuses, looting and lack of accountability have brought wealth to a few and despair to many.
This all began when Marange was discovered to have one of the world’s richest diamond deposits in a century. In June 2006 and over the next two years, 30 000 small-scale miners flocked to the area. The diamond rush led to water, sanitation, and housing crises, as well as a rise in illicit financial flows, smuggling and violence as politically influential figures allegedly took control of the illegal extraction.
Last year a parliamentary report revealed that Zimbabwe’s largest airport has no security scanners to detect smuggled diamonds amid concerns that the country could losing precious minerals worth millions of dollars through smuggling across porous border posts.
Most recently, Qatar-based television network Al Jazeera ran a series titled Gold Mafia which exposed massive illicitit financial flows and smuggling of the precious metal by local and international syndicates.