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Swaziland strengthens mining industry with Commonwealth assistance

1 November 2016

‘Swaziland is keen to harness its natural resources for the benefit of the entire Swazi nation’

Swaziland says it hopes to boost its economy by over four per cent by 2018 by developing its minerals sector, including diamond and gold as well as coal and iron ore mining.

Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Jabulile Mashwama made clear her government’s ambition at a workshop in the capital, Lobamba, convened in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Until recently, Swaziland’s main mineral exports were coal and iron ore. These were valued at about US $1.9 billion in 2013 and make up about 7.5 per cent of total exports, after sugar and wood pulp.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is helping the government to draft legislation and design its fiscal regime, as it seeks to enhance revenues, support local industry, and boost regulation in the sector.

“Minerals extracted from within the borders of Swaziland must be subjected to a minerals value chain that will see a creation of secondary and tertiary industries,” said Minister Mashwama. She added that the government was grateful for the Commonwealth’s assistance, which goes back more than 15 years.

Alache Fisho, legal adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said, "The government of Swaziland is keen to harness its natural resources for the benefit of the entire Swazi nation and has repeatedly solicited the assistance of the Secretariat to assist in the review of its regulatory regime to ensure that it in line with best international standards and practice.”

Commonwealth support involves drafting of a ‘model mining agreement’ for large-scale mining licence holders and regulations to help local businesses and communities. Health and safety regulations are also being drawn up, ensuring companies are statutorily and contractually bound to maintain good health and safety and environmental standards.

These legal instruments will reinforce the provisions of the Mines and Minerals Act 2011 and Diamond Act 2011, for which the Commonwealth Secretariat earlier provided technical advice and assistance.

“These instruments once promulgated into law will ensure the adherence of companies engaged in the sector to best industry practices in their operations and potentially mitigate against the deleterious impact of mining operations on the environment,” said Ms Fisho.

The October workshop was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, the Swaziland Revenue Authority, Swaziland Environmental Authority, Central Bank of Swaziland and Royal Swaziland Police, amongst other government bodies.