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CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVES: Dark clouds over Zimbabwe

First the white farmers of Zimbabwe bore the cost of empowering the black agricultural community. Now the governmen...



First the white farmers of Zimbabwe bore the cost of empowering the black agricultural community. Now the government of Robert Mugabe wants all public companiesand that includes miningto give controlling interests to the countrys indigenous people.

The recently introduced Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill will force all foreign-owned businesses to transfer a 51% stake in the company to Zimbabweans who were disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the grounds of his or her race before April 1980, when the country won its independence from the United Kingdom. The bill is reportedly being fast-tracked and will become law by August, and companies will have to comply by the end of this year.

There are a handful of Canadian mining companies in the country. CALEDONIA MINING operates the Blanket gold mine near Gwanda. Caledonia has been overhauling the No.4 shaft and increasing mill capacity to reach an annual output of 40,000 oz from the previous 25,000 oz/y rate. The expansion was to have been completed by the end of this year.

There are also some Canadian exploration companies including SOUTHERNERA DIAMONDS. It is engaged in a joint venture at the Tsholotsho project in the western part of Zimbabwe.

According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agencys World Factbook, Zimbabwe has a small mining industry (coal, chromium, diamonds, gold, nickel, copper, iron ore, vanadium, lithium, tin and PGEs). Despite that, the country remains poor, with an annual GDP per capita of only US$2,100. It has a labour force of nearly 4 million people, but 80% of the population remains below the poverty line, and unemployment is endemic at 80%.

Nowhere in the proposed new law does the government suggest its people will have access to education, medical care, clean drinking water or jobs. Instead, Mugabe exhibits every sign of being a heavy-handed and paranoid dictator. He has told his countrymen that foreign business snakes are siphoning money out of Zimbabwe, hiking commodity prices, and that Westerners are responsible for ruining the countrys economy.

If ever there was a country that could use the kind of sustainable development that Canadian miners could offer, Zimbabwe is it. If indigenous peoples are ever to gain economic, social and personal empowerment, it could best be done following the sustainable development model used successfully in Latin America, elsewhere in Africa and in Canada.

On the path that Mugabe is following, Zimbabwe will not get the help it so badly needs.


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