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Jail terms covering Zimbabwe’s mining law amendments will still be governed by the constitution.

Reports that directors of mining companies could face up to 20 years in jail for pollution are speculative and premature, says Sternford Moyo.     

Concerns have surfaced over news reports that directors of mining companies in Zimbabwe could face up to 20 years imprisonment if they are found guilty of polluting the environment with their operation.

Minister of Mines Walter Chidhakwa’s proposal seeks to ensure that executive management is also held responsible for environmental damage resulting from any mining activity that is undertaken.

The portion of the amendment covering environmental conservation reads: “Notwithstanding the provisions of the Companies Act (Chapter 24:03), the directors of a company or members of a close corporation or syndicate are jointly and severally liable for any unacceptable negative impact on the environment, including damage, degradation or pollution advertently or inadvertently caused by the company or close corporation or syndicate which they represent or are represented.”

Sternford Moyo, a Senior Partner at Scanlen and Holderness – a LEX Africa partner – says this is “a radical change in favour of environmental protection.”

Moyo says reports by the news media that directors of mining companies could face up to 20 years in jail, if they are found guilty of damaging of the environment, is mere speculation. He says while there are mandatory sentences, a jail term would also depend on the circumstances of each case.

“In Zimbabwe, prison terms are determined by the judicial officer who will have convicted the accused person. Although there are some mandatory sentences, these will have to be aligned to the constitution.”

Minister Chidhakwa also zoned in on environmental conservation by proposing that detailed assessments be conducted before any mining right or title is issued.

“It is proposed that the Minister retains exclusive and original jurisdiction on mining in Zimbabwe and that the Cadastre Registrar requires environmental impact assessments to be carried out and submitted before any mining right or title is issued,” says Moyo.

He says that the Bill does not deal with types of mining from an environmental point of view and that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report “should detail how adverse effects on the environment will be addressed.”

LEX Africa Zimbabwe member firm is Scanlen & Holderness

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