The Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources Wednesday queried the Ministry of Mining over its delay to sign a Mining Development Agreement (MDA) with Kayelekera Uranium Mine’s new owners Lotus Resources.
An MDA is a contract that governs the relationship between the government and a licence holder for the exploration of a certain area of land for minerals or for the mining of minerals in exchange for royalties, taxes and other obligations.
The committee’s concern comes after it has emerged that three years have passed since Lotus Resources bought the mine from Paladin and that Capital Hill is yet to sign the MDA with the new owners for them to start the work.
When the committee summoned the ministry to a meeting Wednesday, it also transpired that there is also no MDA between the government and Mkango Mining Resources for rare earth mining in Phalombe.
The lawmakers have concluded that the delays are denying the country the much-needed forex and have since given the ministry up to December this year to sign the agreements.
Chairperson for the committee, Werani Chilenga, said if the ministry fails to comply with the December deadline, his committee will move a motion in Parliament to compel the ministry to have the MDAs.
“We were expecting that since Lotus Resources took over from Paladin, something tangible was going to come from Kayelekera, but those guys have been doing care and maintenance up to now.
“The ministry’s officials do not even know when these MDAs are going to be signed; this is very unfortunate,” Chilenga said.
However, Secretary for Mining Joseph Mkandawire stressed that negotiations for the MDA commenced this year and that other parties including the Attorney General are involved.
Mkandawire added that the company has also been waiting for the prices of uranium to go up on the international market.
“The documents will live for long, so we need to do a good job. We cannot rush,” he said.
Mkandawire added that Lotus Resources was committed to making the mine operational as the company has reportedly been investing substantial amounts of money in care and maintenance.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.