Thursday, 1 July 2021

CHINESE FIRM SEEKS GOVT PROTECTION

CHINESE mining firm, Afrochine Smelting, has appealed for State protection amid mounting resistance by some safari operators and residents objecting the awarding of a special grant to the company in Hwange District in Matabeleland North Province.

The province is endowed with vast natural resources including minerals such as coalbed methane, gold, coal and game.

In April this year, the Government issued Special Grant number 8577 to Afrochine for a period of three years. Special mining grants are authorised by the President. The authorisation gave the Chinese investor permission to explore for coal in the specified area in the Hwange area with a view to undertake mining activities in line with its investment plans.

However, the move is being objected by some stakeholders led by residents and safari operators arguing any mining activities in the area would have massive detrimental effects on safari business and livelihoods.

The Greater Hwange Residents Association claims the areas being targeted for exploration were within the confines of Hwange National Park, one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in Zimbabwe.

However, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, a national body responsible for custody of game in Zimbabwe, says the special grant is not within the protected areas and is not part to the team resisting the move.

In a statement yesterday, Afrochine said permission to explore for coal in the specified area was in line with their investment plans.

“Ours is just a small effort towards achieving the country’s economic growth and attainment of an upper middle-income economy status as espoused by Government, with the mining sector expected to contribute US$12 billion,” said the company.

“We are doing this in terms of the law, including those governing the environment. We are appalled, therefore, that there are fresh attempts by certain forces under the civil society banner to derail these efforts through vexatious litigation or threats of litigation, bullying, harassment and politicking against our investments.

“We, therefore, call upon authorities to protect the legitimate interests of investors and provide an enabling environment where capital can thrive, in line with the ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’ principle.”

Upon assuming office President Mnangagwa declared the mantra “Zimbabwe is Open for Business”, an investment theme that has been embraced by many countries and international businesspeople who have started developing interest in investing in Zimbabwe.

Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando did not respond to a text message seeking comment.

Afrochine said the ongoing war against companies operating in the mining and energy sectors in Hwange was driven by “selfish individuals and groupings whose operations have become a well-oiled machine to thwart development in the area and derail the legitimate national economic activities”.

Afrochine is a subsidiary of Tsingshan Group, which is building a giant carbon steel plant in Chivhu in Mashonaland East Province. When operating at full throttle, Tsingshan is expected to employ about 4 500 people. The group also operates the country’s largest ferrochrome plant located in Selous, 85km west of Harare.

China remains a major source of Zimbabwe’s foreign direct investment with companies such as Afrochine among large investors. The Government pins hope on mining and agriculture to provide quick economic turnaround and sustained efforts have been put in place to ensure the sectors provide employment and also produce for the export market.

Treasury has said it will continue to extend incentives to the mining sector as part of efforts to boost mineral production. Recently, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, announced a supportive fiscal mining regime targeted at sustainably growing the industry. The incentives are part of measures to optimise the mining fiscal regime in support of the industry.

These include reduction of corporate tax from 25 to 24 percent, deductibility of royalties for assessment of income tax, reduction of diamond royalties from 15 to 10 percent as well as sliding scale royalty system for gold depending on global price levels. Mining is central to the achievement of National Strategy Development 1 (NDS1) and Vision 2030. Chronicle

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