Mzimba-(Maravi Post): The much anticipated multi-million United States Dollar, Kanyika Niobium Mining project which was earmarked for extraction in the northern district of Mzimba to the life span of 20 years has flopped and communities are demanding disturbance compensation from government, The Maravi Post has established.
The development comes five years after Global Metals and Mining Company which was behind the project failed its full operation on the ground whereas as communities, chiefs and civil society organization have been tussling both government and the company over its commitment agreement on social cooperate responsibility.
The Maravi Post visit to the site which located at Mzimba Liwerezi in the Traditional Authority (T.A) Mabulabo on Tuesday, May 24, courtesy of Landnet Malawi with the financial support from International Land Coalition revealed abandonment of the camping area whereas essential equipment for the extraction have been removed.
The watchman on the site who spoke on condition of anonymity though refused to divulge more information regarding to the current situation on the site disclosed that actual ground work stopped in 2014 that his presence was only to guide the kitchen as he still gets monthly salary.
According to information gathered upon visiting the site where fuel tankers are abandoned without any hope of resumption work, signifies complete closure of the mining project as it’s reportedly that actual extraction process was done and that the company was just catching up with timeline agreement with government to avoid breach of contract.
The development which has angered communities of their fate following five years ago order from government which stated that they move out of the site’s surrounding and that any developmental project activities was not allowed which eventually ended them in hunger situation hence demanding disturbance compensation from both government and Global Metals.
“After completion of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 2007 with expectation that actual extraction of the Niobium would start in 2012, nothing till now tangible has been done. In 2012 about 248 houses were marked red for demolition and we were told that within the same year we would be removed from the area and ordered us to stop carrying any developmental activities in the area.
“But a few years later after that order to vacate the place, we just saw the company removing their equipment which some inside source workers telling us that the extraction activity was done already. What pains us most is that we have just been told some months ago that we resume our normal activities but without telling us whether the mining would go on or not.
“We have been leaving anxiously for the past five years putting in mind that we were vacating the place. We stopped carrying any developmental activities. Not only that even our land was tampered with earth minerals which polluted our nearby river that helped us for domestic use activities. Therefore, we want disturbance compensation”, demanded Owen Chirwa one of the affected family from George Kalua village.
Echoing on the same, John Khata, Chairperson for Kanyika Mining Native Forum, the grouping which acted as the link between affected families and Global Metals collaboration with Malawi government was surprised with the authorities’ announcement that communities must resume their work without proper compensation following their disturbances suspecting something fishy happened between the mining company and Malawi government.
“Government must be clear of whether the mining is on or not and compensate us accordingly as our land was tampered with and disturbed as we aren’t able to use it properly as it has been contaminated with earth mineral. It’s our appeal therefore that our Members of Parliament (MPs) in the current seating of the budget session must priotising the gazette 2016 Land Bill for passing it into a law which we believe has solutions to our predicament on compensation and minus that its doom for us”, urges Khata.
The Maravi Post later caught up with Tawonga Chihana, Landnet Malawi’s Senior Project officer who quickly and collaborated with affected communities by urging the lawmakers of the need to pass the current Land Bill as it has some clause which deal with compensation that people of Kanyika would see green light after passing of the bill into law.
Efforts to get immediate reaction on the current status of the mining activity from both Chrispine Ngwena-Global Metals’ Country Director and Department of Mines Spokesperson, Levison Undi proved futile as their mobile phones were not available and even not answered for several attempts.
Malawi cabinet gazetted the Land Bill 2016 on February 22, 2016 and led it in the last 2015/2015 budget review session of Parliament after three years the former President Joyce Banda failed to assent it into law in 2013 due to protests from chiefs, women activists (Action Aid Malawi and NGO Gender Coordination Network) describing it as the way of dealing with chiefs in administering land as the case in Tanzania while on women sides, the law was discriminatory towards women and children in accessing land resources which needed further consultations before it was passed into the law.
The 2016 Land Bill comprises ten Land-related bills including Land, Customary, Registered, Land Acquisitions (Amendment), Physical Planning, Land Survey, Local Government (Amendment), Malawi Housing (Amendment), Forestry (Amendment) and Public Roads.