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Mzimba chiefs stop ‘illegal’ mining

Ngoni Chiefs’ Council in Mzimba has ordered to shut down all mining activities in the district, mostly being done by Chinese nationals who are mining without clear mining documents.

The chiefs’ council Secretary Senior Chief Mpherembe told Malawi News that their action is coming as government has failed to communicate to them on the licences given to the Chinese miners.

Senior Chief Mpherembe said they will soon bang heads on the modalities on how communities in the district can be benefiting from the extractive industry.

The chiefs are reacting to reports that Chinese nationals are flooding the district to mine gemstones and other minerals allegedly without valid documents or entering into joint ventures with local firms.

“We have stopped any mining activity in the district until we are told how government gave the Chinese nationals mining licences. All we want is that if government has allowed them to mine our precious stones, we will demand signed agreements which must involve officials of M’mbelwa District Council and government,” Mpherembe said.

Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining spokesperson Sangwani Phiri said government is aware that chiefs of Mzimba agreed in principle to stop mining activities.

“Their main argument is that those doing so [mining] have no authentic documents from government. They are being accused of not bothering to be reporting to authorities the type of minerals they are mining, including other prospecting activities. As such, all what they do is deemed to be not transparent enough to government as well as to the M’mbelwa District Council,” Phiri said.

Residents of Mzimba have been expressing concern that Chinese miners are duping them over minerals being mined in the district.

They claim that they are losing out on a number of minerals such as rose quartz, rock crystal quartz, smoky quartz and mica.

Yamikani Jimusole, a gemologist, said rock crystal, smoky and rose quartz are on high demand on the international market and they would sell for $1,500 per kilogramme, even more, depending on quality and size.

Malawi News investigations in the district recently showed that the Chinese nationals have been going to different parts of the district as buyers of precious stones but, within a few months, they start mining.

The residents say the Chinese nationals claim they are into joint ventures with local firms.

Some residents say the Chinese nationals use Malawians to get licences and leave them in the cold once they get authorisation.

Malawi News visited Euthini in the district where precious stones are being mined.

Kosamu Munthali, who has been vocal on extractive industry in the country, recently told Malawi News that government has never been serious with curbing illegal mining by foreigners.

In Lilongwe, Salima and Mangochi there have also been stories of people involved in gold mining.

In February this year, President Peter Mutharika assented to eight bills, including the Mines and Minerals law which is meant to bring sanity in the mining industry.

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