The Government has licensed five coal mining companies to explore the black diamond in Matabeleland North Province, the Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu has said.
The newly licensed companies are Makomo Investments, WK Blasting, Clidder, Apex and Liberation Mining.
The companies are mining coal in Hwange, Deka, Gwayi and Binga.
In an interview last week in Hwange, Minister Mpofu said the companies had already started their mining ventures.
"There are a number of investments in Hwange and in Matabeleland North province as a whole. We have licensed five new big players to mine coal," he said. "There has been a general outcry over development projects in Matabeleland North with people saying the province is underdeveloped," he said.
Minister Mpofu however, said this was the beginning of new things for the province as Government is putting in place measures to develop it.
"Already over 1 000 locals have benefited through employment and that is the empowerment we want for our people, " he said.
He said because of the new operators, there were stocks of coal readily available for customers like ZPC. "This is the first time in ages that ZPC has had stocks. Previously they were complaining that Hwange Colliery Company was not producing enough coal but now the situation has changed. We also hope that the electricity situation improves," he said.
Meanwhile, Minister Mpofu said the 51 percent local participation in the mining companies like Zimplats was not negotiable.
He said he held meetings with management of the big mining companies to map the way forward towards indigenisation of their mining firms.
"If we do not do that, we will be penalised by locals. We as Zimbabweans should be benefiting directly from our natural resources.
"We are the only country in the world whose people have not been benefiting from its resources and it is high time we change that," he said.
Mining companies have indicated that they would be comfortable with selling stakes of 26 percent to locals under a Government plan that aims to eventually transfer the control to the locals.
Mr Victor Gapare, the Chamber of Mines president, said that the sector committee on Indigenisation in Mining recommended a threshold of 26 percent.
"This is what the chamber is comfortable with," he said.
However, this is far from 51 percent, which Government is considering and has planned to set up a sovereign fund to own 51 percent of mines.
Committees to come up with ownership levels for different sectors have been established as well.