Bubi Small Scale Miners Association (BSSMA) held their general meeting on the 10th of August 2017 at Ndwangwana shopping centre in Bubi district of Matebeleland North province. The meeting was attended by sixty people including the Senator of the area, Honourable M Bhebhe and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA).  Main issues discussed were the process of transferring 81 claims ceded by John Muir; challenges with $5 million Gold Genius investment agreement; treasurer’s report on subscription fees; dispute between miners and farmers, engaging with Bindura Nickel company for release of mining claims; and the on-going mining ease of doing business reforms.

Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) is generally perceived as informal which makes it fundamental for players to organise to strengthen their bargain hand. This is one of the cornerstone to the promotion of formalisation of the ASM sector according to best practice like Fairtrade gold standard. At the recently held Mining Entra conference, the deputy minister of mines challenged ASM associations to take lead on documentation process that will help the engagement process with policy makers. If the above concern is taken into consideration, BSSMA’s is a step ahead of several small-scale miners’ associations in Zimbabwe.

BSSMA has about 320 members of which 185 members are fully paid up. A monthly subscription fee amounting to $5 is required.  That 58% of the members are fully paid up is a testimony of the confidence that the members have in the association. Commendable progress like engaging with large scale miners for the release of claims to artisanal and small miners and engaging with Environmental Management Agency (EMA) for group Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) has been scored by the association.

The meeting started with the discussion on progress pertaining to the transfer on 81 gold claims acquired from John Muir through a negation process initiated by BSSMA. The 81 gold claims comprise of 41 gold claims from the 2 base metals blocks which have been allocated to beneficiaries. The Ministry of Mines is in the process of regularising the sub divided blocks. The remaining 40 gold were legitimate and half of claims have not been transferred to their owners. 

Beneficiaries of the gold claims are struggling to raise $510 required by the Ministry of Mines to transfer claims. Because of this challenge, BSSMA is urging Ministry of Mines to reduce claim transfer fees to $100 from $510. This recommendation was made in light of the on-going mining ease of doing business reform process initiated by the Office of the President and Cabinet.

Also, the meeting noted that the EMA had agreed that about 24 small scale gold miners from the Zoo can carry out a group EIA and share the associated costs. This move is remarkable in that ASM players have generally complained of high costs associated with EIAs. Group EIAs will certainly lower the costs as the burden is shared amongst the miners unlike a scenario where each miner has a separate EIA.

The meeting was informed of the stunted progress of the $5 million investment agreement between Gold Genius, a South African company and BSSMA. This investment was meant to finance a state of the art service center for artisanal and small scale gold miners in Bubi. A gold mill, equipment like compressors and a gold buying office were part of the infrastructure to be developed under the centre.

 Due to some challenges faced by the investors, the investment has been scrapped and the construction of the service center has been halted. BSSMA resolved that it would get some legal services to go through the agreement to have a fair understanding of its rights and obligations pertaining to the failed investment agreement. So far, about 7 miners had benefited from the agreement through the provision of working capital like explosives, diesel and hiring of compressors.

Farmer miner disputes were discussed as one of the challenges affecting ASM in Bubi. It seems that disputes between miners and farmers are more pronounced in new settlements. According to one established small scale gold miner, Mr Timothy Ndlovu, disputes between miners and farmers dates back to the colonial era. Mr Ndlovhu faced challenges in 1975 when he tried to start mining operations in one of the farms owned by a white farmer.

 Another small-scale miner, Mr Kwanele Nyathi, recommended that artisanal and small scale miners must be capacitated with skills to negotiate with farmers. Furthermore, the meeting resolved that an awareness raising campaign is needed so that farmers are clear that legally, their rights are restricted to tilling the land and the minerals belong to the state.

Lastly, the meeting discussed the various impediments faced by ASM in Bubi to contribute to the ongoing mining ease of doing business reforms. On 26 July 2017, a mining Technical Working Group on ease of doing business reforms was established. ZELA as a stakeholder to the TWG is promoting grassroots participation in policy making process. As such, ZELA helped BSSMA to document the impediments they are facing and to suggest concrete solutions that will enable productivity of the gold miners. 

Overall, BSSMA felt that the various fees paid by ASM were too high and many hands are involved in the administration of fees paid by ASM. Currently, ASM are paying fees to the local government, Ministry of Mines and Environmental Management Agency among other government departments. Payments to the Ministry of Mines include prospecting license $200, mine registration  $200, mine annual inspection $100 and ore removal permit $20.