MAC: Mines and Communities

Zimbabwe Mine Law 'almost Complete'

Published by MAC on 2006-12-21

Zim mine law 'almost complete'

Harare, 21 December 2006

Zimbabwe is at an "advanced stage" in finalising a controversial law designed to give locals shares in foreign-owned mines, and has sealed joint mining deals with China, President Robert Mugabe said on Wednesday.

Mugabe's government unsettled the mining industry in March when it announced plans to amend the mining laws and "indigenise" 51% of all foreign-owned mining companies, with 25% going to the state for free.

The government withdrew the document for further consultations but Mugabe has repeatedly stressed that locals should be in control of their rich natural resources.

Empowerment cornerstone of development

"Indigenisation and economic empowerment of our people remains the cornerstone of our socio-economic development," Mugabe said in an annual state of the nation speech to parliament.

"The amendment of the Mines and Minerals Act to facilitate participation by locals in the mining sector is at an advanced stage," said Mugabe.

The government empowerment has worried investors in one of the few sectors of Zimbabwe's economy that has continued to attract foreign capital following the collapse of the key agriculture sector, which critics blame on Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms for blacks.

Major international firms with interests in Zimbabwe include the world's number one platinum miner Anglo Platinum, Rio Tinto and Implats.

Last Friday Mugabe said his government would not allow land-grab style seizures of mines by top officials, a statement analysts said was designed to calm jittery foreign mining firms.

Mugabe looks East

On Wednesday Mugabe said his "Look East" policy, which seeks to bolster ties with Asian and Muslim nations to make up for Zimbabwe's increasing isolation from the West, was bearing fruit after Zimbabwe signed joint venture mining agreements with firms from China.

"Joint venture mining projects have been agreed with several Chinese companies while there are advanced plans to open a minerals marketing office in the city of Shanghai in China," Mugabe said without giving details of the companies involved.

Analysts and industry officials say growth in the mining sector is being stunted by delays in finalising mine ownership laws and a skewed exchange rate policy.

Mining ouput declined by 14.4% in 2006, but official forecasts point to a 4.9% growth in 2007. The industry has overtaken agriculture as the top foreign currency earner in the crisis-hit southern African country.

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