MINES and Minerals Development Minister Paul Kabuswe has suspended the issuance of mining licenses for 30 days with immediate effect, subject to an extension.

Addressing the media, Wednesday, Kabuswe, however, said licenses issued prior to this suspension would still be in effect.

“The Ministry of Mines has imposed a one-month moratorium for the following activities to be undertaken away from the public eye…So probably to make the word moratorium explained to the common person, it means that the Ministry of Mines has suspended the issuance of mining licenses for a period of 30 days and begins today 23rd February 2022 to 23rd March 2022. And now this period is subject to extension depending on how deep the problem is. If we find that we haven’t finished within the 30 days, there is a provision that we extend so that we can clean the system,” he said.

“The licenses that are there already, they continue operating. We are not suspending licenses that were given out. What we have said is between now and the period we have announced, there will be no issuance of licenses. We want to undertake an audit on mining rights, we also want to undertake a work study on processes at the department and we also want to undertake internal reorientation training for our staff. What we are doing is actually a very technical assignment. The work will be undertaken by a cross function internal team of officers with high integrity and competence from internal audit, from the mines development, department from the mines safety and mining cadastre.”

Kabuswe said his ministry wanted to be cleared of the allegation of mishandling the issuance of mining licenses.

“The Ministry of Mines and Development has recently been dealing with alleged abuse of the mining rights administration system of the mining cadastre department. Now, this has led to allegations of corruption and also a serious damage to the cadastre department and generally the ministry. So as the ministry we have decided to establish the extent of the problem and also determine what corrective actions must be taken so that we can clean up the system. We want to be cleared off the allegation that has been thrown around that the Ministry of Mines has been mishandling the issuance of mining licenses,” he said.

“Of course, I must say we inherited a system that was rotting but we have decided together with our team under the new dawn government that we need to clean the system and do proper issuance of mining licenses, remove the greed that has rocked issuance of mining licenses starting from artisanal miners, to small scale miners, to medium scale miners and large scale miners. So we want to make sure our system is clean and corruption is gotten rid of.”

Kabuswe cautioned that any license that would be issued in this period would be null and void.

“This is an official announcement. Any license that would have been issued in this period will be null and void. This is serious. So if there will be any of our officers who will misbehave during this period, we will get you. This government has made it very clear that there shouldn’t be corruption in the governance of this country and it begins with mining because mining is critical to our economy. We have huge plans for the mining industry in Zambia and our focus is to succeed. So for us to succeed, we have to make tough choices and this is one of the tough choices as a ministry we have made,” he said.

Kabuswe further warned individuals who had acquired mining licenses for speculative purposes.

“We are tired of people going late to renew their licenses. Going forward after the ban is lifted, we will not entertain appeals because someone went late to renew their license. When you have a license in any area of your life you must always have a diary to show you when that license is expiring. We are tired of presiding over appeals ‘no I was late to renew my license,’ people need to be serious. I also want to sound a warning to those that have gotten licenses for speculative purposes that we are going to get you, that as a ministry we want licenses that are active. If you get a mining license, be it an exploration license or whatever license you get from us, we don’t want you just to keep it and look at it and probably use it to raise money at the stock exchange or wherever,” he said.

“We want people to be active. So we want seriousness in this ministry, we are not going to tolerate anyone regardless of where you are coming from, whatever political affiliation. Some of the problems in the ministry which is public knowledge, a lot of comments have come out from the public which is the fact that the issuance of mining licenses is not fair. So it is also just fair to the Zambian people to establish why is there so much noise, why should I have so many appeals? When you have so many appeals as a minister, it means there are problems. So we need to establish where these problems are coming from, whether we have corrupt officers or not.”

Kabuswe said government was keen on ensuring that sanity prevailed in the mining sector.

“Our ministry will not tolerate any form of gangsterism around any mining tenement. After we took over as the new dawn government, we discovered that there was a lot of lawlessness around the mining tenements. People could barge onto a mine, do whatever they want to do. I want to say that going forward after this is lifted, we are not going to tolerate this. We are alive to the fact that this is a very important ministry for economic emancipation of our people,” said Kabuswe.

“In the early days, we had made it very clear that this ministry will bring sanity to the mining sector and we are moving in that direction. One of the biggest examples we have shown is the arrangement around the Nkana slag dump popularly known as black mountain. We are moving slowly but surely. The reforms that we are doing are meant to bring sanity to the sector and also a benefit to the Zambian people because these are their resources and that is a focus of this ministry.”