An umbrella body of over 33 civil society organisations (CSOs) that were formed in response to government’s failure to safeguard the interests of people at the grassroots against the predatory tendencies of foreign mining investors has described a 2015 Paladin Sustainability Report as garbage.
In the report for the just-ended year published on its official website, Paladin Energy Limited rates highly its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, saying communities around Kayerekera Mine benefitted from the works which extended the company’s footprint throughout Karonga District.
But in an interview last Wednesday, members of network called Natural Resource Justice Network (NRJN) said the report was compiled just to paint an impressive picture when the real situation on the ground is depressing.
The network also blamed the Malawi government for failing to lay down sound legislation on CSR to take to task multinational companies conducting their business in the country.
NRJN further accused Paladin of lying that during 2015, communities did not raise any concern about the company’s activities when issues of water spillage were a major concern.
NRJN Chairperson, Kosamu Munthali, said looking at the promises Paladin Energy Limited made, the areas they have mentioned in the report are too irrelevant compared to revenue generated within the period it has been operating in the country.
The network further argues that Paladin promised to construct a magnificent secondary school and a hospital in Karonga but nothing tangible has been done up to date.
However, the report, which covers the period from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, says the company will continue to fulfill its CSR in Malawi under the terms of the Kayelekera Development Agreement and Environmental Impact Assessment Social Impact Control Programme.
Reads the report: “Paladin also continued its ongoing community programmes focused primarily on health and education. Through its CSR programmes and projects undertaken and funded by the Paladin Staff Charity, Friends and Employees for African Children, the Company Social Development footprint extends throughout the Karonga District, so ensuring that villages other than those in the immediate vicinity of KM [Kayelekera Mine] benefit from its programmes.”
The report also says Paladin will continue its support to local health clinics by providing transport for government medical staff in the region, alleviating the need for local villagers to travel long distances.
It further said the company provided support services that included a large number of health talks at rural schools, reaching out to over 4,500 children; hosted international researchers and other non-governmental organisation staff; liaised with the District Health Office on local programmes; and, assisted with audiology clinics at the School for the Deaf and Karonga District Hospital.
The report also says discussions are underway with the Ministry of Health aimed at constructing a clinic at the Kayelekera Village.
“This is besides running a Mosquito Control Programme four times a year in Kayelekera Village and at Karonga Airport, in addition to the mine and accommodation areas, as a very effective malaria-control mechanism,’’ it reads.
On water development, the report highlights the irrigation schemes at Kayelekera and Nkungwe being extended and upgraded with provision of new piping, gate valves, a dam and water channels while on education, Paladin says the company constructed a new footbridges to provide access to the Kayelekera Secondary School, replacing a badly deteriorated and unsafe structure previously used by villagers and schoolchildren.
But reacting to the report, Munthali said the network is not amused.
“When you look at all the indicators, I don’t think they have contributed to the expectations of the public. The water plant they constructed here in Karonga, as soon as they finished and handed it over, prices of water were adjusted so high, making life very unbearable,” he said.
Munthali added that what Paladin has been doing mostly has been minor rehabilitations on two schools found in the area.
Church and Society for Livingstonia Synod Projects Manager, Paul Mvula, said most of the issues mentioned in the report need to be substantiated.
“For example, the report says Paladin has helped thousands of girls to attain secondary school education yet there is one primary and one secondary school in the area.
“These CSR are very minute to be done by a very big company like Paladin. We needed initiatives that can support the whole community at large as contained in their Social Corporate Development which they signed with the government such as constructing a secondary school; however, in the report such an item is missing.
“We are very sad that we had a raw deal in the first place comparing to what our friends have in Namibia,” he said.
Mvula said Paladin in Namibia is supporting the Namibian Institute of Mining Technology through accommodating students for job attachments. He said last year alone, it accommodated 80 students at its mining site.
When asked to comment on the report, government spokesperson, Jappie Mhango, referred this reporter to the Ministry of Energy, Mining and Natural Resources, saying it is better-placed to explain.
However, attempts to speak to Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Energy, Mining and Natural Resources, Ben Botolo, proved futile as he was reportedly engaged in meetings.
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