MUDZI Rural District Council is moving to curb the looting of lithium ore which had seen unlicensed miners selling the mineral to buyers who are smuggling it to Mozambique through the porous Nyamapanda Border Post.
The Zimbabwean government banned lithium ore exports through a circular issued by Mines minister Winston Chitando on 20 December 2022 under the Base Minerals Export Control Act.
The ban was effected through Statutory Instrument (SI) 213 of 2022 titled Base Mineral Export Control (Unbeneficiated Lithium Bearing Ores) Order, 2022.
Part of the SI reads: “Under the powers conferred upon me by section 3(1)(a) of the Base Minerals Export Control Act [Chapter 21:05], I, Winston Chitando, MP, Minister of Mines and Mining Development, by this my order direct that with immediate effect as follows:— 1. This order may be cited as the Base Minerals Export Control (Unbeneficiated Lithium Bearing Ores) Order, 2022.
“In this order — “lithium bearing ore” means any mineral ore containing lithium; “unbeneficiated lithium” means any lithium in whatever form that has not undergone processing to an extent that would exempt it from the payment of export tax under section 12B (‘Collection of tax on exportation of unbeneficiated lithium; determination of value thereof’) of the Value Added Tax Act [Chapter 23:12]; 3. (1) No lithium bearing ores, or unbeneficiated lithium whatsoever, shall be exported from Zimbabwe to another country . . .”
A recent investigation by The NewsHawks with the support of the Voluntary Media Council’s investigative journalism fund for transnational crimes revealed that illegal buyers were frequenting Mudzi’s Bangauya villages in ward 5 to buy loads of ore from unlicensed artisanal miners. The ore is then smuggled to offshore destinations through Nyamapanda Border Post.
Mudzi Ward 5 councillor Albert Saineti this week said Mudzi RDC has roped in a licensed company, Benson Mines, to legally carry out lithium mining operations at the source where artisanal miners were plundering the mineral.
Saineti said the miner has beefed up security to stop the plunder.
“The situation is now calm and the plunder of lithium by unlicensed miners has been contained. Benson Mines has since erected a perimeter fence around the area where poaching of lithium was happening and the company has deployed its own private security personel who are manning the area in all the 24 hours of the day.
“The mining company has also stitched an arrangement with the local police for joint rapid responses in the event of large groups of illegal miners coming to try and breach the security. Even the trucks which used to come to collect the lithium from the local unlicensed miners have stopped frequenting the area,” he said.
Mudzi RDC chairperson Victor Nyamutswa said the local authority’s environmental officers are also working tirelessly to ensure that the intervention meant to stop the poaching of lithium is sustainable.
“So far the situation has been brought to calm and our environmental officers are also educating the community villagers on the need for sustainable and legal mining operations which do not damage their environment,” he said.
Tivirai Chitemamuswa, the Mudzi RDC chief executive officer, also confirmed that in Bangauya the lithium poaching crisis had been put under control.
“We have since been deploying our officers to help secure the place and we have more plans to tighten the security there through collaborative operations with the police and private security personel of the mining company. Our message to that community is that they must abide by the law and help to ensure that their environment is preserved also,” he said.
Mutoko-based Youth Initiatives for Community Development (YICD) programmes manager Kuda Makanda told The NewsHawks that since the poaching of lithium had been contained in Mudzi, there is now need to ensure that the local community benefits from mining of the resource.
“There is need for local communities to be meaningfully located in the lithium value chain. One easy way is to un-designate lithium as a strategic mineral so that even locals can mine it. There should be comprehensively inclusive consultations of the local communities in all the mining operations that will be taking place in Mudzi,” he said.
Makanda added that in broad terms, there is a need for the promulgation of laws that drive the empowerment of locals in all mining areas.