Top mining official under fire from prospectors

By William Milasi

Mines and Mining Development Permanent Secretary Pfungwa Kunaka has come under fire from prospectors following his directive of barring mining officials from accepting application for registration of mining titles on areas with expired Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOS).

In a letter dated 8 March 2024 Kunaka directed all provincial mining directors not to grant applications on areas were EPOs would have expired.

“You must by now be aware that the current set of EPOs that were issued on 12 March 2021 are due to expire on 11 March 2024 at 00:00 hours. By copy of this Internal Circular you are hereby instructed not to accept any applications for registration of mining titles on the concerned areas in your respective provinces until such time you are advised otherwise through official communication from my office. This directive also applies to all EPOs that are currently active on expiry,” he said.

Zimbabwe Prospectors Union (ZPU) president Smason Dzingwe told the senior official that his directive has been met with serious “outcry” from mining stakeholders and is bound to create, “chaos.”

“Stakeholders are shocked by the way your good office has decided to disrespect the law (Mines and Minerals Act Chapter 21:05) procedures and processes of reversing mineral rights in accordance to the requirements of the law. EPOs for them to be legally binding must go through publishing in Government Gazette by Minister of Mines with the authorization from the President.

“EPOs are given a stipulated period of lifespan that is 3 years after Gazette stating the Gazetting date and the date of expiry in accordance to the requirements of the Mines and Minerals Act Chapter 21:05,” he said.

Dzingwe said there is an urgent need for the reversal of the directive as, “it is in violation of the requirements of the Mines and Minerals Act, whilst at the same time depriving stakeholders of their rights enshrined in the country’s constitution and mining laws through a letter that has no locus standi.”

He added that failure to reverse the letter will leave prospectors with no choice but to approach the courts.

Dzingwe further explained that when an EPO is gazetted, it is done by the Minister of Mines with the authorization from the President.

“The EPO is given a lifespan from the date of gazette which is three years. However, when an EPO expires stakeholders have a right to prospect and peg on all those expired areas legally. Banning, blocking, and denying stakeholders from submitting applications on the expired EPOs is a clear sign of infringement or violation of stakeholders rights,” he said.

With this directive, Dzingwe argued that the Ministry of Mines is trying to arm twist the law in favour of foreign investors ahead of local stakeholders despite the fact that the law gives stakeholders rights immediately on expiry of EPOs.

He added that the Permanent Secretary cannot resolve issues of speculative EPOs by depriving, violating or usurping stakeholders’ rights.

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