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Government outlines mining priorities

The government has outlined fresh priorities for the mining sector few days after stakeholders accused it of sidelining the sector in the 2019/20 national budget.

Spokesperson in the ministry, Sangwani Phiri, said the government was keen to address critical issues in its attempt to promote the sector.

Top on the list, according to him, is institutional technical capacity building.

This, he said, would be done through mass training of officers in mining governance institutions and mining-related fields.

“This includes geo-sciences and rehabilitation and refurbishment of mineral sector laboratories to support in-country mineral, geological and environmental sample analyses,” Phiri said.

Apart from supporting the development and review of policy and legal framework in the upstream oil and gas subsector, the government was set to update and maintain a computer-based mineral rights management system at the Mines Department.

This will help in fast-tracking processing of mineral license applications, among other things.

A consortium of youth organisations, through their Youth Manifesto, earlier this year asked the government to halt mining programmes in the country by issuing a moratorium until such a time the public sector has enough skilled personnel.

While agreeing with the idea of capacity building, Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN) in Malawi Chairperson, Kossam Munthali, called for inclusivity.

“There is need for a robust plan and within decentralisation, there is need to build the capacity and enhance the technical knowhow of people in the department. Talk of artisanal and small-scale miners,” Munthali said.

Mining sector has registered slow growth in recent years, despite being touted as the country’s next big thing.

Before 2014, mining used to contribute about 10 percent to GDP when the Kayelekera Uranium Mine in Karonga District was operational.

But since the mine was put on care and maintenance in February 2014 due to tumbling prices of uranium on the global market, the sector’s contribution to GDP has dropped to below one percent.

Last year, the mining sector grew by 2.3 percent from 1.6 percent in 2017 and 0.4 percent and 1.1 percent in 2016 and 2015, respectively. The sector is projected to grow by 3.6 percent this year.

In the 2019/20 national budget statement that Finance Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha presented to Parliament last week, the government has allocated K40 billion to the energy and mining sectors, up from K21.7 billion the previous year.

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