Hundreds of Zimbabwe’s small scale mines have been forced to suspend operations and their owners prosecuted by the Mines Ministry for defying a government directive to stop using cheap petrol driven pumps that emit toxic fumes during mining operations.
Officials at the Mines Ministry and Mining Development Ministry this week said the government department has embarked on an operation to enforce its directive of banning petrol driven pumps during mining operations.
Hard pressed small scale mines are forced to resort to using cheap petrol driven pumps due to lack of foreign currency to purchase sophisticated equipment that do not emit toxic fumes.
“The operation has been ongoing and a number of small scale mining operations were suspended this week by inspectors from the Ministry of Mines,” an engineer based in Bulawayo told Sunday Standard on condition that he was not named as he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The inspections were intensified after recent reports of miners dying after inhaling the toxic fumes from the petrol driven pumps.
Mines and Mining Development Minister, Obert Mpofu, confirmed an operation by his Ministry to ban the use of petrol driven pumps.
“Mining regulations clearly spelt out that the use of petrol or diesel driven pumps for underground mining is prohibited because of the noxious fumes emitted,” Mpofu said.
Small scale miners are struggling to find a bottom after the previous year’s devastating economic problems that knocked nearly all sectors to their knees.
Lack of capital is cited as the biggest factor behind a snail’s pace revival of the sector.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), which was last year the sole buyer of gold in Zimbabwe under the country’s mining laws, stands accused of knocking the mining sector to its knees by refusing to pay miners for gold delivered to it.
Meanwhile, President Robert Mugabe promised a stable policy environment in a drive to attract investors to the ailing mining sector.
“The government is committed to ensuring that the policy environment is stable, predictable and sufficiently attractive to guarantee investors good returns on their investment,” Mugabe told foreign investors in Harare this week.
“The government is committed to ensuring that the policy environment is stable, predictable and sufficiently attractive to guarantee investors good returns on their investments,” Mugabe told the conference.
He urged foreign mining companies to invest in Zimbabwe and said government would soon pass a new law to govern the sector, which would address concerns raised by an earlier draft.
“Investors are invited to seize the opportunities offered by the mining sector in the production of an assorted array of important minerals that provides great opportunities for investment,” the 85-year-old leader said.