New mines law faces dissent
By Wezzie Gausi:
The Natural Resources and Climate Change Committee of Parliament has spoken against the tabling of the Mining Regulatory Authority Bill in Parliament before full implementation of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2019.
In the State of the Nation Address (Sona), which he delivered on Friday, President Lazarus Chakwera announced the establishment of the authority to regulate the development, management and utilisation of the country’s mineral resources.
Chakwera said a relevant bill would be tabled during the current meeting of Parliament.
But chairperson for the committee, Werani Chilenga, argues that the country already has a strong Mines and Minerals Act which has not yet been fully implemented and tested.
Chilenga said the establishment of the Mining Authority will require that the Mines and Minerals Act be amended to avoid duplication of duties as there is a committee provided for in the Act.
“As of now, nothing has been done to amend the Act and one wonders how the Mining Regulatory Authority Bill will be tabled.
“There is nothing wrong with the Mines and Minerals Act but lack of implementation because since 2019, when the bill was passed by Parliament and assented to by the president, the Ministry of Mines is still struggling to develop guidelines,” Chilenga said.
His position is shared by Chairperson for the Natural Resources Justice Network, Kossam Munthali, who has accused government of not doing enough consultations on the Mining Authority law.
Munthali said it is by law that there should be consultations before a bill is brought to Parliament for deliberations.
“It is sad that some people are lying to the President about the bill. The bill has not passed the consultations stage. The bill is for Malawians and Malawians were not given ample time to discuss it,” Munthali said.
We had not managed to get a comment from Secretary for Mines Joseph Mkandawire by the time we went to press yesterday.
The Mines and Minerals Act vests the administration of the mining industry in the Mineral Resources Committee.
The committee comprises several officers such as the Commissioner for Mines, the secretary responsible for mining, who is the chairperson for the committee, the secretary responsible for Local Government and the secretary responsible for water.
Others are the secretary responsible for lands, the Secretary to the Treasury, the Director of Environmental Affairs, the Director of Geological Survey, the director responsible for parks and wildlife and the director responsible for forestry.
Also in the committee are the Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service and the Solicitor General.
In the Sona, Chakwera admitted that several laws such as the Mining and Minerals Act and the Reserve Bank of Malawi Act are simply not being complied with.
“As a case in point, the Reserve Bank of Malawi Act designates the bank as the sole institution that can purchase, sell or hold gold in Malawi; yet there are people from various nations here procuring gold in Malawi without a licence.
“These are criminals and my administration will deal with them according to law,” the President said.
But according to Chilenga, full implementation of the Mining and Minerals Act would address some of the challenges plaguing the country’s mining sector.