Government has condemned the conduct by Eland Coal Mining Company which abruptly suspended its operations at Mwaulambo area in Karonga without any official communication.
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining says it is equally dismayed by the investor, who did not endeavour to rehabilitate the land as stipulated in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) agreement.
Spokesperson in the ministry, Levison Undi [now deceased], said in an interview on Friday that the ministry was shocked by the report from its team of investigators who confirmed the development after getting wind of it from the media.
This was Undi’s last interview with The Daily Times as he died tragically in a road accident in Blantyre on Saturday morning.
“The current Mines and Minerals Act demands an investor to officially write the ministry should he decide to shut down for whatever reasons. But this was not the case with Eland which left the people in suspense, thus creating room for unnecessary suspicions,” Undi said.
He, however, disclosed that after the report the ministry has written the investor twice, summoning him to explain the reasons behind his breach of contract.
“He has not responded to any of our communications. And we will soon be meeting on the way forward. Otherwise, people of Mwaulambo should be assured that a mining licence means legal obligations. And the law has to take its course if it’s not complied with,” he explained.
The South African-based company left behind deep trenches which the communities surrounding the mine say are posing danger to people, especially children and livestock.
When The Daily Times visited the site over the weekend, it also established that the deep dugouts are filled with ground water which is running through to drinking sources, hence high risk of contamination.
The company also left behind huge heaps of coal, which according to one of it’s former employees, is about 180 tonnes which translates to $12,600 based on the current market price.
During random interviews, people in the area blamed government for failing its obligation to track down the investor who they say has left them frustrated with the disastrous state of the environment.
“We are now vindicated because we had always doubted the agreement that was there between the company and government. For instance, while they were busy exploiting our resources, they did not care to fulfil their Corporate Social Responsibility as signed for in the Development Agreement,” Wavisanga Silungwe who speaks for the concerned citizens in the district said.
“The coal in Karonga has traces of uranium and that water in the ditches is coming in contact with drinking sources, which means the people there are in great danger. Because uranium is so hazardous to health,” Silungwe said.
Four months ago, people in the area held a peaceful protest against government in a bid to force it to get the miner to return and fill up the ditches which have since turned into a death traps.
This is not the first time that the government has been fooled by miners, enraging local residents in the process. In Karonga, Paladin Africa Limited abandoned its Kayerekera Uranium Mine while a niobium mine in Mzimba is facing challenges from residents.