In a bid to contain shabby deals and enhence transparency in mining aimed at bringing proceeds and benefit to Malawians, stakeholders in sector have asked Malawi government to suspend issuing exploration and mining licences pending Mines and Minerals Act review.
The call comes barely some days after minister of energy and mining, Atupere Muluzi acknowledged challenges facing the industry that the review of the law was at an advenced stage to address the concerns.
During the public debate on Friday organised by Actionaid Malawi, Citizen for Justice and Centre for Environmental Policy Advocacy (CEPA) with funding from Tilitonse, panelists called government to stop issuing the licences untill the law was in place which would contain malpractice and secrecy in the industry.
Group Village Headman Chinamalima of Traditional Authority Nazombe, in Phalombe district one of the panelists expressed displassure on how Mkango Ltd got the licence on earth elements mining which the villagers were not informed but just being told to relocate to other places paving away exploration exercise.
“We just saw Mkango Limited officials coming to my village telling us to look for other places for settlement but when we challenged that (as there was no one from government side) they insulted us calling us all sort of names then telling us to ask our government why (Mkango officials) them came to our area”, explains GVH Chinamalima.
GVH Chinamalima said with such kind of transaction, it was proper to suspend the whole exercise as secrecy was an order of the day that villagers were not the principal benefinaciaries of mining business but politicians and foreigners hence such a call.
In an interview, Elyvin Nkhonjera Chawinga, Actionaid Malawi, Mining Project Coordinator, concured with the calls for government to suspend the exercise saying it would control the willy-nily individuals and companies who actually exploit communities by not committing themselves to social cooperate responsibility.
“In real sence, it is proper for government to suspend issuing exploration and mining licences untill our laws are put in place. This will curb the maipractice happening in the process as there is a weaker law to contain that. Ofcourse, this will be a hard decision on government regarding on costs which follow when doing the exercise”, said Chawinga.
She also expressed sadness on the way licences were issued saying secrecy and failure to consult main stakeholders in sector were enough reasons to suspend the whole exercise as only formidable law which was under review would contain the situation.
“We are worried the rate at which these licences are given to companies without following proper procedures such as Environmental Social-Impact Assessment as theire aim is to issue licences as quick as possible that the time the law will be in place they shouldnt be affected. This is the reason we are calling this government to stop the exercise immediately”, challenges Chawinga.
In his response, Jalf Salima, Acting Director for Geological Survey Department in the ministry of energy and mine and natural resurces disputed the calls to suspend the exercise saying doing so was to cost government heavily but opted for quick passing of the law as the best solution.
“Practically, that will be difficult to implement. Stakeholders should be patient on this matter as all possible ways to address the challenges facing the industry are in the new bill which is expected to be tabled in June-Budget seating of Parliament”, assures Salima.