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Digging in the dark

DIGGING IN THE DARK: Mining activity

Lack of mining policy hampers beneficiation

The absence of a Mining Policy has hampered any hopes of achieving optimal beneficiation in the mining industry.

This is according to the Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, who highlighted several grievances in her report for the 2019/2020 financial year.

Letebele noted that instead of one specific policy, the Department of Mines (DoM) rely on various Acts of Parliament to regulate mining operations.

“These Acts regulate activities, that is, they give the Department legitimacy and authority over all mining matters whereas policies would ensure uniformity in the mineral administration,” she observed.

Letebele also pointed out if a policy was enforced, it could provide an enabling environment for enhancing citizen beneficiation.

She warned that the absence of such a policy has led to inadequate control over big mining companies, whose production volumes are never verified, creating a potential risk of under declaration of production.

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In addition, Letebele says the lack of mining policy limits the participation of Non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Society and Community Based Organisations.

“The policy would have clearly defined their roles in the mining activities and they could provide oversight to ensure proper exploitation and extraction of minerals,” she highlighted.

In response to these concerns, the Auditor General says the DoM management indicated a Mineral Policy was completed and tabled in Parliament in 2017.

“However, the draft had been awaiting approval by Parliament. Management further stated that the Policy was re-tabled during the July 2020 parliamentary sitting and could not go up to the first reading,” she documented.

Letebele further punched holes in the Mines and Mineral Act, which was last reviewed in 2007. She criticised the Act for failing to address several key issues, including insignificant charges and fines, which she noted were too small to act as a determent to violators.

“The charges were much lower as compared to the benefits derived from committing those offences. For instance, fines charged to illegal miners were insignificant compared to the profits made from the illegally mined commodities.”

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The Act is also silent on the formula for the calculation of dividends and factors such as allowable/non-allowable costs to determine the value of the government share.

Another concern raised by the Auditor General was over contractual agreements between the DoM and mining companies.

“The DoM had no contractual agreements with most of the mining companies operating in the country, except for Debswana mining company, which was, however, not availed to me,” she declared.

BENEFICIATION BROKEN DOWN

In the mining industry, beneficiation is any process that improves the economic value of the ore by removing the gangue minerals, which results in a higher grade product (ore concentrate) and a waste stream (tailings).

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