Bishop of Mzuzu Diocese of the Catholic Church, John Ryan, has said government should come to its senses and compensate 248 families surrounding the failed Kanyika Niobium Mining project in Mzimba.
Ryan said government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, is taking the communities as second-class citizens following its silence to a petition the communities presented in November last year.
The communities demanded disturbance allowances because government ordered them to stop activities in their homes after Globe Metals and Mining Company expressed interest in conducting its mining activities in the area.
However, Ministry spokesperson, Ayami Mayeresa, recently downplayed the demands arguing government cannot compensate them because that is flouting the mining framework.
But speaking after visiting the families on Friday Bishop Ryan said life for the affected families is hard, adding government is not taking them as Malawians.
“What we have seen and heard is very sad. People were told not to develop their land because they were promised that they would be relocated after receiving compensation. Despite government changing its decision, people here feel left behind and they need to catch up now.
“We pray that government should understand the plight of these vulnerable families and help them as soon as possible. They are Malawians and are like other persons living in the country,” he said.
However, Mzimba District Commissioner, Thomas Chirwa, who also attended the meeting, said Globe Metals and Mining officials still have interest in continuing with mining activities after finalising their agreement with government.
But Traditional Authority Mabilabo differed with Chirwa, arguing his people have lost trust in both government and the mining company.
“My people are suffering. They are drinking polluted water. The trenches which the mining company dug have negatively affected farming activities of many families. The soil was already destroyed. Why thinking of continuing with the mining activities while my people have not been compensated?” Mabilabo queried.
But Mayeresa recently said government cannot compensate the families because mining activities did not commence in the area.
He said exploration activities do not oblige investors to compensate people within catchment areas.
However, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Mzuzu Diocesan Secretary, Arnold Msimuko, has said government should use humanity to understand challenges the communities of Kanyika are facing.
Msimuko, therefore, said CCJP will still push for the people’s disturbance compensation till government changes its tune.
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