At the end of 2013, the Government of Malawi launched the countrywide airborne geophysical survey to unveil “the true mineral potential of Malawi”. The World Bank and European Union are funding the survey through the Malawi Governance and Growth Support Project. This is expected to attract more foreign investors to the country’s “largely underexploited mining sector”, according to Mining Weekly.
Malawi has faced a setback in widening its economic base with the suspension of production at its largest mine, Kayelekera Uranium Project. Paladin Energy has been losing money through the subsidiary Paladin Africa operating the mine because of low prices for uranium. The announcement of the suspension came less than two weeks before the company reported a “minor” uranium oxide spill.
The mineral sector has contributed 10% to Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP), up from 3% prior to 2010. However, with the closure of Kayelekera, new mining projects are needed if Malawi is to reach its target to increase mining’s contribution to 20% by 2016.
Malawi’s president Joyce Banda remains hopeful about the prospects of mining for the nation. This week (5 March 2014), at the Malawi National Consultative Conference “Malawi at 50 and Prospects for the Next 50 Years”, organised by the High Level Development Council (Ministry of Mining Principal Secretary Leonard Kalindekafe, is included in the 24-member group), Banda asserted
Today, our mining sector has been positioned to turn around the fortunes of our country in a unique manner.
Later in March, public and private sector representatives from Malawi will visit China on an “investment mission” to target investors for projects in sectors including mining, energy, infrastructure development, and agro-processing, according to a Malawi Investment and Trade Center officer. At the Investing in African Mining Indaba held in Cape Town, South Africa, in February 2014, the World Bank announced that it will launch a USD 1 billion fund in July 2014 to map the continent’s mineral resources and consolidate geological information on minerals. Paulo de Sa, senior manager at the World Bank’s mining unit, told Reuters that
If they know what they have in their territory, they are in a better position to fine-tune and calibrate the fiscal regime and mining laws.
Tom Butler, global head of mining at the International Finance Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group), unveiled the World Bank’s proposed Billion Dollar Map at the Mining Indaba. He explained why acquiring geological data across Malawi and the continent is crucial,
Accessible information about geology is a public good, useful to investors and explorers, but also to policy makers and regulators and the public at large. Development also suffers when there is information disparity. This is not because Africa has less extensive geological resources than Canada or Australia. It’s because there is yet an enormous amount of wealth left to discover. And we need US$1bn to put that on the map. It will promote standardisation and accessibility of information and it will level the playing field and make the job of private sector exploration teams easier. Coupled with in-country training and institutional support, and the work of exploration companies, this initiative will unlock the true worth of Africa’s mineral empowerment.
In Malawi, 45% of the airborne geophysical survey has been completed to date.