The commitment was made at a recent consultative meeting over the weekend, officiated by the Deputy Minister for Minerals, Mr Steven Masele, and brought together various corporate entities from the mining industry, the government, agencies and civil society organizations.
The initiative comes at a time when the government has already made significant efforts with the World Bank to map out an approach to support smallscale miners who have for years struggled to formalise their business but to no avail. For years, artisanal mining, which has continued to play a key role in addressing unemployment among the youth, especially in remote areas, has always been ignored.
It is against this backdrop that these current efforts are worth emulating. In the past two decades, large mining companies have always become victims of bad relationship with communities around their operations for lack of support to the small-scale miners.
As a result, these skirmishes have continued to persist with no tangible efforts in sight to solve the problem, once and for all, save for a few politicians who have been capitalizing on this situation to win cheap publicity. It could be rightly said that it is good news for the country that smallscale miners and big investors could support each other in the future.
Big mining companies must now see a need to source some of their supplies locally to help the economy. It defies logic for these companies to import some of their needs such as tomatoes, onions, chicken and fish. Youth groups in the mining areas need support to form projects such as poultry and horticulture so that they could supply the investors with chicken or vegetables.
This could be another way to help other members in the community such as women who are not engaged in artisanal mining. The government should also shift its focus to repair bad relationship between investors in agriculture and the local communities. The nation had witnessed in the past few years incidences whereby investors were targeted and property destroyed.