By Joshua Mwamulima,Bwalya Chilufya-Musonda Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Government of the Republic of Zambia has constituted a Mining Appeals Tribunal (Tribunal) as provided for under the Mines and Minerals Development Act 11 of 2015 (Act).

The inaugural five-member Tribunal, appointed by the Minister of Mines and Minerals Development, comes nearly seven years post enactment of the enabling legislation.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction to inquire into and make awards and decisions in any dispute relating to exploration, gold panning and mining and to probe and make awards and decisions relating to any dispute over compensation payable under the Act.

In addition, the Tribunal has jurisdiction to investigate and decide upon any matter affecting gold panning, mining or non-mining rights and obligations of any person or the Government except for matters relating to tax, which are to be heard and determined by the Tax Appeals Tribunal.

When the Act was passed establishing the Tribunal, stakeholders supported it as a significant and commendable step towards improving the effective resolution of mining disputes.

However, positive sentiments waned over the years following the delay in operationalising the Tribunal and compounded by the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Katenge Resources Ltd v Avarma Mining Corporation Ltd and others Appeal No. 153 of 2017 where the Court held that a person aggrieved with any issue under the Act ought to follow the requisite procedure under the Act. That is, appeal to the Tribunal before commencing an action before any other court. This was irrespective of whether or not the Tribunal existed.

The consequence of the delay in establishing the Tribunal is that there is a backlog of appeals relating to disputes in the mining sector as the approach by aggrieved parties to directly appeal to the court of law was not legally tenable for want of jurisdiction.

By and large, the Tribunal is expected to improve administrative resolution of disputes before parties resort to the formal courts of law.