A premier annual mining gathering for the civil society and community-based organisations has kicked off amidst declining productivity in the mining sector blighted by unregulated operations and negative impacts of the Covid- 19 virus.

The Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba (ZAMI) 9th edition of jointly organized by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) will run from 30 September to 2 October.

Officials said the contributions of mining, 60 percent of foreign currency earnings translating to 8 percent of GDP, is more important as the sector is gravitating towards the set target of generating US$12 billion worth of revenue up from US$2.7 billion in 2017.

Mining productivity has significantly declined due to the Covid 19 pandemic that has disturbed the global mining value chain with notable local decline in productivity of gold from 1.5 tones to around 0.3 tonnes.

Organizers of the annual meet, ZELA said this provides an opportunity to hold government to account on its vision to grow the sector, promote just and equitable exploitation of natural resources.

“We are hosting the ZAMI in a different format where partners are hosting concurrent side sessions to even create a bigger space to amplify community voices and advocate for transparency and accountability in the mining sector,” said Nyaradzo Mutonhori, ZELA’s programs officer.

She said the ZAMI provides an opportunity for communities, civic society players to reflect on the developments in the mining sector and exposing community vulnerabilities that are coming from the impact of mining.

“This year’s ZAMI comes at a time when we are faced with the global COVID-19 pandemic which has affected the economy and the livelihoods of thousands, not just in Zimbabwe but across nations. The mining sector is expected to spur economic growth especially on our drive towards the Upper Middle-Income Agenda (Vision 2030).

“Therefore, the 2020 ZAMI will see us interrogating whether we are on track as we strive to achieve the USD12 billion mining industry by 2023. The ZAMI is a space dedicated to amplifying community voices and this year because of COVID19 we will have different side sessions which will also be broadcasted live”.

ZIMCODD’s Executive Director, Janet Zhou said ZAMI provides a platform where stakeholders can deliberate and influence policy change.

“We are deliberating on how we can ensure the USD12 billion economy is anchored on sustainable mineral resource management. It is important to discuss such issues because we do not want to discuss economic growth without a human face,” said Zhou.

She added, “This year, the alternative space created for communities living in resource rich areas, is being held under a decentralized format, where partners are hosting technical side sessions, to comply with the Covid 19 public gathering regulations.”

ZIMCODD programs manager John Maketo, said it is a paradox that communities living in areas endowed with natural resources are still living in poverty, as he urged for upscaling of advocacy work.

“We need to ensure that we transform the lives of communities that host big mining conglomerates and ensure that they benefit from the natural resource endowments to impact positively on their livelihoods.

“As CSOs and communities we need to hold local and foreign mining investments to highest ethical standards to change the narrative of mining communities,” said Maketo.

It is evident that from the research findings of ZELA, we have a plethora of legislations and policies that promote transparency and accountability there is a missing link in terms of implementation.

Chair of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines, Edmund Mukaratigwa said the role of parliament has been more pronounced by the reliance of the country on mining, to ensure compliance and holding the executive to account.

He said the platform provided by ZAMI would be used as a critical reflection of the policy implementation gaps, accept recommendations for review of policies and ensure that community issues are escalated.

“We take seriously the concerns of the mining communities emanating from policy gaps within the mining sector and this interface is healthy because it helps us engage the executive from an informed perspective.