JIS News

The Land and Environment Ministry has pledged to have its proposed National Minerals Policy before Parliament by year-end.
Director of the Ministry’s Mine Monitoring Unit, Oral Rainford told JIS News that the policy titled, ‘The Minerals Industry: Ensuring a Sustainable Minerals Industry’ would serve to improve standards within the industry, especially the quarrying sector, and create a level playing field for investors.
“Overall, it is to improve business practices and the business environment, making it clear that the quarrying sector and other minerals-related entities must operate as businesses,” he explained, adding that this approach would make the industry more attractive to the local financial sector, making it easier for operators to access financing and attract investment for the overall development of the country.
The minerals industry supplies 100 per cent of the aggregate for all physical developments within the country with some 120 licensed quarries, divided between sand and limestone operations. The industry contributes between 9 to 11 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
The policy, Mr. Rainford said, would serve to educate operators and outline the need for standards with the hope of making businesses more profitable, while encouraging smaller entities to amalgamate so as to benefit from economies of scale.
“If you are too small in today’s world, particularly in the minerals sector, it is going to be very difficult to survive,” he stated, noting that mining entities over the last 15 years, have been converging to benefit from significant reduction in operating costs, making it far more difficult for smaller entities to compete.
Furthermore, Mr. Rainford said, mechanisms would be put in place to protect local groups, while improving mining and processing technologies and training workers to further increase competitiveness. He informed that discussions were ongoing with the University of Technology (UTech) to establish a degree and subsequent courses in minerals and mining engineering for the local industry.
He said it was unfortunate, that despite the industry’s significant contribution to GDP, there was no institution, which trained persons in areas important to its continued development.
“Those are skills that are needed in any modern minerals industry so we are hoping to get something like that. We have started discussions with UTech and we are going to try and see if we can concretize those discussions,” he stated.
He added that the thrust to introduce the policy was also to ensure greater value-added from mineral operations. Already, he told JIS News, prospects for the manufacturing of industrial lime and marble were being explored.
Furthermore, he asserted that the policy’s implementation, would allow for a better regulated entity, which would ensure less conflict among land users, less land degradation resulting from mining or quarrying, and the effective structuring of employment within the industrial minerals sector.
The significant changes to the sector will stem from the recommendations of the National Minerals Policy Development Committee and its subcommittee, which will be reconvened by the end of February.
The committee was formed in 2003 with the mandate of developing a national minerals policy, and was last September split into five subcommittees comprising representatives of over 35 entities spanning public, private, and non-government organizations, to develop specific segments of the policy.
Mr. Rainford said that following the reconvening of the committee, a first draft of the policy would be produced for assessment by the various interest groups before being brought to the public. It will then be taken to Cabinet for its approval and then laid before the House of Representatives.
“We are not able to say definitely when the recommendations will be implemented, but we are hoping that by the end of the year, we should see a policy on the table,” he told JIS News.