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Mining dream in bumpy takeoff

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Lazarus Chakwera

President Lazarus Chakwera’s dream of turning mining into Malawi’s next big thing and the driver of the economy seems to have faced a rough take off, with very little progress on the ground, almost a year after making the declaration.

On May 2 last year, Chakwera told Malawians that he was determined to kick-start the process of revamping the sector by using mining as a catalyst for restructuring the economy.

During last June’s meeting of Parliament, Chakwera said his administration would present a bill to establish a Mining Regulatory Authority to regulate the development, management, and utilisation of Malawi’s mineral resources.

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“Our next step with the National Mining Company will be to capitalise and operationalise it, which the Ministry of Mining will inform you about in due course. I am, therefore, directing the Ministry of Finance to begin taking steps in that direction during this upcoming financial year.

“Another component you can expect the ministry to announce is what will be the working relationship between the National Mining Company and the mining cooperatives we are urging those of you in the sector to form and register,” Chakwera said.

However, nothing has, so far, happened on the ground, a development that has riled the Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN), which has accused the government of lacking seriousness.

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“A year has now passed but there are no efforts made to boost the mining sector,” said NRJN Chairperson Kossam Munthali.

He cited one of the President’s promises to form a mining company.

“This is a good venture but, surprisingly, there is no allocation towards the cause in the 2022-23 National Budget.

“We are a country which is good at planning things but bad at implementation. We, as players in the mining sector, expected that, maybe, the bill to do with the mining company would go to Parliament in the meeting which just ended but that did not happen.

“What the President indicated is failing to translate into implementation in the country.

“We want the government to be serious about it. We need the Ministry of Mining to put its house in order. We are tired of having promises on the podium that do not translate into tangible action,” Munthali said.

However, Secretary for Mining Joseph Mkandawire said the ministry was taking steps towards making mining a vibrant sector.

He said they were following processes of registering cooperatives to help in the mining sector.

“Of course, the ministry needs K5 billion to start the mining company and, currently, nothing was allocated towards the same. We will be engaging with possible investors and donors to help us with funding so that we start taking steps towards the establishment of the company.

“Currently, the ministry has an established market for gold, which has made a lot of money in the few months it has been in operation. So we, as the government, are trying our best to boost the mining sector,” Mkandawire said.

The miners Law Report of 2022 indicates that the industry has, in recent times, been infiltrated by illegal minors who include Malawians and foreign nationals.

It says foreign companies have either undertaken mining works through the use of local labour for expropriation of local mineral resources or have continued with mining works with expired and unrenewed licences.

It has been alleged that such cases have increased due to corruption surrounding the award of licences and the cancellation of expired licences.

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