MANY young people are crying foul over Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) issued way back during the colonial era, which they say constitute a major hindrance to small-scale miners, with most mining areas still said to be under their purview.
EPOs refers to a large area of ground targeting selected minerals for exploration. In Zimbabwe, the maximum area considered under EPOs is 65 000 hectares, with the minimum uptake size being any company’s discretion.
The minimum tenure of EPOs is three years, but is subject to renewable for another three years upon the lessee’s choice.
EPOs constitutes the first licence a company obtains before it may explore for minerals in any given area in the country.
The licence allows companies to embark on a three-year intensive technical exploration studies, with the possibility that those engaged in the exploration may scandalously obtain minerals from that specific ground.
With the EPO in their pocket, licence holders may also move to another area and do the same while still within the duration of the initial three-year cap.
Generally companies will – in most cases – eventually remain with less than only 1 000 hectares for mining operations, that is, if they find an ‘economic mineral deposit’ in the EPO area.
Speaking at a Zanu PF Youth convention, Tatenda Gwinji – who is the chairperson of young small-scale miners – said most EPOs should be removed in order to empower young people in mining.
“Your Excellency, there is this animal called EPO, and it has caused a lot of problems. Everywhere we go, we are told that there is EPO. Who is EPO? What benefit do we have from EPOs. I plead with you, your Excellency, kindly look into this issue,” Gwinji pleaded.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised the thousands who thronged Rimuka stadium in Kadoma that he would look into the issue, also acknowledging that the EPOs did not serve a purpose.
“My secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu, told me the meaning of EPOs. Those are some of the laws which were issued by the white minority to only benefit themselves, but I do not think this benefits us. I do not think they serve a purpose in our country,” he said.