The country will wait a little longer to see commencement of mining operations at Songwe Hill and resumption of uranium mining at Kayelekera as the Attorney General (AG)’s office is vetting mining development agreements (MDAs) between the government and the miners.
In an interview, Minister of Mining Albert Mbawala said negotiations on the MDAs took time but MDA have been submitted to the AG’s office for vetting.
“Both agreements are in the office of the AG now. We are waiting for him to do his due diligence. We cannot tell when he will be through but we hope it won’t take much longer,” Mbawala said.
AG Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda confirmed that the documents were in his office and that he is taking precautions to avoid mistakes made in previous agreements.
“We will conclude the vetting process as soon as possible but we need to avoid past mistakes,” Nyirenda said.
In an interview, economist Betchani Tchereni lauded the AG for taking his time to scrutinise the documents but was quick to recommend to the authorities to consider making such documents public for Malawians to comment on and provide suggestions.
“Mining development cannot be done with haste; so, we really need to take our time in these deals and we may not depend on the AG only; we also need other people to look at the agreement the way it has been formed.
“For example, the government could put the document in public for two weeks and ask for input from Malawians because these are their resources and Malawians could come in so it is necessary and we could be facing another two or three years before such operations start,”Tchereni said.
In a statement published on its website, it indicated that production ramping up is expected from July 2025 averaging 5,954 tonnes per year for total rare earth oxides with a long operating life of 18 years.
The project has an internal rate of return of 31.5 percent, payback period of 30 months from full production and a post-tax life-of-operations nominal cash flow of $2.1 billion.
On the other hand, Director at Lotus Resources Limited, Grain Malunga, indicated that there were a number of issues that needed to be addressed before the mine was re-opened.
He mentioned the government’s shares in the mine, where currently the government holds 15 percent but the Act provides that the government should own 10 percent of the shares and how tax issues will be handled once operational.