The Zimbabwe government is considering legislation to compel mining companies to turn half of their shares over to indigenous people.

Ian Saunders, president of Zimbabwe's chamber of mines, said the new law is unnecessary. He add's that most of the major mining companies sold off their assets to black owners.

He said the largest employer in the mining sector is a black-owned Zimbabwean company and an indigenous South African businessman has recently bought one of Zimbabwe's biggest gold mines. He said the debate within President Robert Mugabe's government about legislation to expropriate Zimbabwe's mines will drive away foreign investors, and retard domestic investment in mining.

According to Mr. Saunders, the country's mining sector is already in trouble, mainly because the official exchange rate set by the government - which is much lower than the exchange rate on the streets - is forcing mining companies to sell at a loss.

He said the mining industry hoped the central bank would review its foreign-exchange policy. More than a million people are employed in Zimbabwe's mining industry. Exports of Zimbabwe's raw materials are expected to earn Zimbabwe 750-million dollars this year.