MUTARE– The Forestry Commission has called on the government to come up with legal reforms that will pave way for the co-existence of mining and forestry management.
By Donald Nyarota
Provincial Forestry Commission extension manager Philip Tom, made the remarks while addressing a policy dialogue organized by the Centre for Research and Development, to critique the current mining legislative framework.
Tom said the current mining laws are placing vast plantations at the mercy of prospecting miners, including unlicensed artisanal miners with no capacity to do rehabilitate after mining activities.
He said allocation of mining claims should be interrogated to ensure that they do not prejudice other sustainable land uses.
“Miners are leaving areas that they would have done mining processes without rehabilitation despite making commitments to rehabilitate after the cycle, however this doesn’t happen in most cases.
“We should balance benefits from mining natural resources and the cost on other natural resources, we have lost a lot of forests due to mining, vast lands of plantations lost to illegal mining
“Both mining and forestry are currently not compatible unless there are measures put in place to ensure that the two co-exist in harmony.
“The way mining is being done now, we thought that the two land uses would co-exist, in this current state we see that some mining methods show that these activities cannot co-exist, as mining largely remains a threat to forestry,” said Tom.
Tom called for due diligence in the granting of mining licenses to ensure those awarded mining rights have the capacity to rehabilitate the environment.
He said the threat to forest management in Manicaland was pronounced as timber industry is a major economic contributor, revealing that currently there are several attempts to invade various plantations and conservancies by miners.
“There are several applications from prospective miners, some wanting to invade forestry plantations with the aim of extracting natural resources, in Manicaland it is an economic unit because it is the biggest employer in terms of numbers.
“Allocation of claims should be interrogated, because the two policies do not speak to each other, there is no convergence between the two policies impacting very negatively on forest management
“If mining is done properly we believe that these two policies can co-exist if there is proper management, this would provide a win-win situation, it might require upfront investment which some artisanal miners may not have,” said Tom.
He added, “Miners engage the Environment Management Agency (EMA) when they do their Environmental Impact Assessments but the documents have just been perfunctory as miners are leaving without proper rehabilitation of the area.”
Centre for Research and Development director James Mupfumi said given the commitment of the presidium to institute amendments in several areas including mining there should be cohesion in these policies.
He said the legal reforms should be aligned to the constitution, enhance collaboration among government departments, to curb illicit financial flows and promote transparency and accountability.
“In his SONA, the President was on record that there will be alignment of the laws to constitutional provisions as well as amendment of policies which also include mining policies.
“In this regard, we believe as an organization that governance should be participatory involving citizens, civic society and government to enhance collaboration and cooperation.
“The Forestry Bill was also tabled to address challenges in the sustainable management of forest resources, as well as the Gold Trade Act to curb illicit financial flows in the gold sector, but all these acts should be in harmony.
“Constitutional provisions that protect the socio-economic rights of communities are already enshrined and we believe that the new laws or policies are simply aligned to the constitution,” said Mupfumi.