The United States (US) Under-Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, Jose Fernandez, says his country is ready to support Malawi and Africa with capacity building support that will help them reap more benefits from mining.
The development comes at a time some African presidents, including Malawi’s president Lazarus Chakwera, have announced plans to reform their country’s mining sector to crack down on practices such as illegal mining and mineral smuggling.
“The United States government is geared towards working with large and small-scale miners to try to find ways to increase mineral recovery in Malawi and Africa,” he said on the sidelines of the 2023 Investing in Africa Mining Indaba Conference taking place in Cape Town, South Africa.
Responding to a question on what mechanisms the US has put in place to assist African countries crack down on illegal mining and mineral smuggling, Fernandez said it is not only Malawi that needs help but all African countries.
“I think it is important not only for Malawi but for a number of countries on the continent. Small-scale miners and other stakeholders are people we’ve been working with to try to find ways to better protect them, their communities, and the environment from toxic pollution,” Fernandez said.
He cited the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Mali as some of the countries they are working with to find ways of formalising activities of the mining sector.
Fernandez said capacity building in technology use would be among the forms of assistance provided, especially to small-scale miners.
“Oftentimes, small-scale miners simply do not have the technology to be able to perform what they are trying to do in an environmentally responsible fashion, and we are working to help on that,” the US official said.
Two years ago, Chakwera announced plans to reform the country’s mining sector to boost the economy and crack down on illegal mining and mineral smuggling activities.
He said, if properly regulated, mining could play a major role in resuscitating Malawi’s economy.
Chakwera said Malawi had issued over 250 mining licences but has no proper mining industry.
Minerals found in Malawi include uranium, gold, bauxite, coal and phosphates. The country has a proliferation of small-scale miners—most of whom are operating without licences.