Government ‘intercepts’ gigantic precious mineral
Minister of Mining, Rashid Gaffar, has stopped the export of a rose quartz mineral rock, weighing 25 tonnes, which officials from his ministry were selling at K2 million and had been earmarked for Asian market.
Speaking to Malawi News when he inspected the rock at Manica premises in Lilongwe, Gaffar said he has stopped the sale because he was not satisfied with the reasons given by technocrats from his ministry who had pegged it at K2 million.
“I have stopped the exporting of the precious rock because I would like to investigate its true value. I heard about the selling of the rock through a memo which was written to me, informing me about the development. I became inquisitive to go and inspect the rock. I hear such rocks can fetch over K170 million. So, we will wait for experts to value the quality of the rock before it is sold,” he said.
Gaffar said although he stopped the sale, directors at the ministry have the mandate to sell such rocks even without his knowledge.
But he was quick to say that government is trying to make sure that minerals are not smuggled and that Malawi gets true value for such precious stones.
Regional Geologist in the Ministry of Mining, Samuel Sakhuta, explained that the rock was government property after it was confiscated from illegal miners.
He said the rock was up for sale after inspection by the Ministry but many people did not show interest to buy it because ‘it is of low quality’.
He added that they measured and inspected the rock and it was valued at K2, 100,000 and one person showed interest and they sold it.
However, Gaffar, said he is not happy with the price the mineral rock was sold at, saying it is too little.
Church and Society of Livingstonia Synod Programmes Mananger Moses Mkandawire said what the Minister has done is commendable
“The Minister and his Principal Secretary are new in the Ministry but both have shown that they are ready to clean the rubble. Honestly speaking, we must not wait for the Minister and his PS to be doing this work on their own without support from their officers. The system must be checking whether this is acceptable or not,” Mkandawire said.
He said it was unfortunate that Malawi is losing a lot of its resources to foreigners because of locals’ attitude and behaviour towards mineral exploration, production and marketing.
He alleged that corruption and fraud are negatively impacting on the sector.
The rock was originally impounded by Police in 2019 from three Chinese nationals and a Malawian who were trying to export it. The trio was arrested for illegal mining and were both fined K21 million by the courts.