Government has been faulted for the manner in which it is handling the sale of Kayerekera Uranium Mine in Karonga by Paladin Energy Limited to Lotus Resources Limited.
The criticism comes barely a month after government gave a statutory consent to Paladin to divert its 85 percent interest in the mine to new investors; Lotus Resources Limited (65 percent) and Kayelekera Resources Pty Limited (20 percent).
Among other things, some stakeholders say they are not happy with the secrecy surrounding the new deal and what they say is government’s failure to be in control of the affairs.
Programme Manager for the Church and Society project in the Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP which has been implementing a mining project called ‘Tonse Tipindule’, Paul Mvula has warned that Malawians could be in for yet another raw deal.
He observed that unlike when the mine was being inaugurated in 2007, government has failed to engage the public thoroughly through their parliamentarians, stressing such information gaps are recipe for disaster.
“Just like was the case when Paladin was just coming 13 years ago, government is yet again creating room for speculations and suspicions; keeping information under wraps is not helping and this poses danger because some quarters won’t be happy. Leaving just two ministers [of natural resources and finance] to decide on behalf of all Malawians is not a good idea,” Mvula explained.
He added that with Paladin’s licence expiring in 2021, it would have been proper for government to wait until Paladin relinquished its license to identify another investor with the country’s interests at heart.
“Malawi is up for another tricky scenario, this is simply Paladin seeking renewal of the licence under a different name. They are fully aware how much they have failed Malawians but still want to cling to the Uranium mine under a different name,” Mvula observed.
He then expressed skepticism on Malawi ever registering meaningful contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (DGP) from the mining sector.
Another commentator who opted for anonymity said the country’s mining sector requires a complete overhaul, stressing that authorities have to lead the nation in jealously safeguarding the precious resources that Malawi has.
But Deputy Director of Mines Peter Chilumanga has said that government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the sale process goes on smoothly and all potential negative loopholes are sealed.
Chilumanga said: “Government is trying its best in ensuring that government and public interests are not prejudiced by this sale. This means that as soon as the process is fully complete, government will come up with a communique informing the nation of the completion of the sale.”
Meanwhile Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources chairperson Werani Chilenga has said it has summoned officials from the Ministry of Mines to a meeting on January 27, 2020 for an update on the Kayerekera Uranium Mine deal.
“Our concern is on environmental management because when Paladin was coming, the Act did not provide for payment of a bond for instance, but now the legislation has changed and those coming have to comply with that,” Chilenga said.
Paladin suspended mining at Kayelekera in Karonga in 2014 following a drop in Uranium prices on the global market before they put the mine under care and maintenance.