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Attorney General acts tough on mining companies

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Werani Chilenga

By Wezzie Gausi:

Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda has told the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change that the government will not bow down to demands from mining companies.

Three mining companies— Lotus Resources Limited, Mkango Resources Limited and Globe Metals—are demanding that they keep their savings in foreign currency with foreign banks and enjoy tax holidays, among otherthings.

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The government has for some time withheld the signing of Mining Development Agreements (MDAs) of the three companies.

Nyirenda told the committee that before signing the agreements, the companies should take into account the economic interests and welfare of the country.

He said once all issues are ironed out, the MDAs will be signed.

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“These companies have made a lot of concessions. However, we need to take into account the economic interests of the country.

“We cannot change the laws just to suit one company. We cannot be forced to amend laws. However, there are provisions that the investors pointed out which, we agree, can be amended to remove ambiguities,” Nyirenda said.

Secretary for Mines Joseph Mkandawire said the government has held several renegotiation meetings with Lotus Resources over the Kayelekera Uranium Mining Project since March 2022.

He said the government wants to ensure that the agreements are in the best interest of the nation.

“For many years, people in the country have been complaining that they don’t see the benefits of mining. This is why, this time around, we want to be sure of what we are getting into before we sign agreements with any mining company,” Mkandawire said.

Committee chairperson Werani Chilenga concurred with Nyirenda, saying investors should not dictate the modus operandi in the mining sector, let alone changing laws to suit their interests.

“What the government is saying is very true. Let it withhold the agreement up until a better deal that will profit this nation is made. We already made losses with Paladin that was working at Kayelekera mine. This time around we do not want that to happen again,” Chilenga said.

Meanwhile, the government is anticipating that the conclusion of the three MDAs will facilitate the solicitation of debt financing and mobilisation of other resources for the three projects.

Paladin Energy Limited announced that production at Kayelekera Uranium Mine (Kum) had been halted citing the continuous downward trend in global uranium prices as the main reason.

Following the retrenchment of workers at Kum, it became obvious that there would be a significant reduction in capacity to operate programmes on radiation pollution control and monitoring at the mine, which led to its closure.

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