On Wednesday last week, John Bande, Malawi’s Minister of Mining gave a presentation to an audience attending the world’s largest mining investment conference, Investing in African Mining Indaba, that took place in Cape Town, South Africa.
On Thursday, Chris Bishop of ABN met with Bande to discuss how Malawi plans to position itself as one of the premier mining destinations for investors. It was broadcast on CNBC Africa and can be viewed online. We have produced a transcript of the 5-minute interview that you can read below.
Please also see our Editor’s Note at the bottom of the page.
Bande: Malawi would like now to look differently at issues. We’ve always relied on agriculture, but this time with the new president in place, Mrs Joyce Banda decided that why don’t we also improve on mining. Currently, mining only contributes 10% of the GDP, but we’d love to see it in the medium- to long-term contributing 20%. So that she has done by coming up with a Ministry that stands alone – we’re calling it Ministry of Mining – separated from Energy Ministry.
Interviewer: Now your main mining activities are uranium. Could you give us an idea of the sort scale that you’ve reached with that already? And what your export markets are?
Bande: Uranium, yes, currently is a big export earner in billions of our money, but it’s not all we have in Malawi. We have very large deposits of coal, bauxite and other industrial minerals like iron ore, graphite. So, at the moment, we can talk of uranium, yes, but it’s not all. And at the moment also we still feel that because of the accident in Japan the price of uranium has been affected and we feel it has also affected our revenues, yes, but now we have seen that there’s a trend going up, by 2 dollars at the moment, which is okay. As far as that trend continues we believe that uranium will still continue to be our revenue earner.
Interviewer: What other areas of mining are you trying to open up? You mention there bauxite and coal. Are there any other commodities you have in the ground?
Bande: Yes, we have so much in our area in Malawi. We have got gold, we have diamonds. but what we want to do as a country is, we’ve got a project going by the World Bank and the EU and the French Government. This will mean us coming up with geodata. It will be a collection of data by flying the aircrafts that will be airborne geodata collecting and that will bring us a list of all the mineral that we have in our country. That project will help us also to attract investors to our country because now we will have high-level digital information on what exactly we have in our country.
Interviewer: One of the problems you have got is that you are a landlocked country, you don’t have any ports, particularly with coal you’ve got to move vast amounts to make it pay, what are you going to do then?
Bande: Malawi does not work in isolation. We are in SADC and COMESA. At the moment, we are working with the Mozambique Government to ensure that the Vale project that starts from Mozambique to mine coal also stretches to Malawi. So much so that we through our leader Mrs Joyce Banda convinced Vale that they should pass through Malawi. So the rail line that Vale’s building from Mozambique will pass through Malawi to connect to another part of Mozambique. And Malawi shall also use that one to transport its minerals, agricultural produce and its people. So we shall benefit from the Vale project that is now happening.
Interviewer: And you will be exporting then through Mozambique?
Bande: Yes, through Mozambique to the Indian Ocean.
Interviewer: In years to come, how much more significant do you think Malawi will be at an event like the Mining Indaba?
Bande: We believe that Malawi cannot just be an unfortunate country. We have seen Mozambique doing well, we have seen Zambia doing well, we have seen Tanzania. We are all in the Rift Valley and we believe that Malawi, though we have old geodata and that information has told us that there’s so much that we have in our country. The new information that will come through this project by the World Bank will really bring a lot of information that will attract more investment. We cannot just be the ones unfortunate and our lake also has shown very big, serious deposits of oil.
Editor’s Note: Bande’s statement that “Mrs Joyce Banda convinced Vale that they should pass through Malawi” is misleading. In fact, in 2010, Vale approached the Malawian government, under Bingu wa Mutharika, through the Ministry of Transport and Public Infrastructure with a proposal for constructing and rehabilitating a rail line between Vale’s Moatize coal mine in Tete, Mozambique, to the port of Nacala that will run through Malawi as part of the logistical solution for the export of about 18 million tonnes of coal annually. The deal was signed in 2011. Joyce Banda broke the ground for the project in December 2012, two years after the government was approached about the deal.
Nyasa Times has since covered the story, “Minister Bande lies about JB allowing Brazil’s Vale to Malawi” (12 February 2012).