Earlier this month, the Government of Malawi with partners held a meeting with artisanal and small scale miners and other stakeholders to discuss the draft of Malawi’s first National Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Policy. One of the miners who participated in the event was Chikomeni Manda.
Chikomeni has written a post about his experiences of mining in Mzimba, in northern Malawi. He is a young small scale gemstone miner and a member of Mzimba Gemstone Mining Cooperative, based in Mzimba. He is engaged in gem marketing and capacity building of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) in areas such as gemstone prospecting and mining, safety and good mining practices, gemstone grading and marketing.
Chikomeni can be contacted on: chikomanda [at] gmail [dot] com
Gemstone Mining in Mzimba
By Chikomeni Manda
Mzimba host vast amount of gemstones deposits and there are a lot of mining activities taking place in the district. This is evidenced by the pegmatite’s which are scattered all over the district. The major discoveries of these gemstones have been discovered by villagers and illegal miners. Prospecting is carried out by artisanal and small scale minerals in the villages and mining is dominated by many people engaged in informal activities.
Though the district has this resource still the people are not benefiting much because of poor marketing systems. The ones who are reaping handsomely from this non-renewable resource are foreigners who are taking advantage of the locals by offering them low prices because they don’t understand the value of these gemstones.
Now with the National Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Policy being drafted and the government’s determination to assist the small scale gemstone miners, many miners are optimistic that the ASM subsector will improve for the better. The policy is touching on issues to do with capacity building, financing, marketing, value addition and environmental conservation which are very important areas for the growth and sustainability of the sector.
International demand for gemstones is ever growing now, and the ASMs in Mzimba takes this as a tremendous opportunity to supply their stones to the world markets.
Mzimba is endowed with several varieties of coloured stones and gem mining potential remains highly unexploited, therefore with good investment and improvements to the mining systems, production of gemstones is likely to increase substantially giving the opportunity to offering higher quality and quantity to the world market
James Phiri one miner said.
It is because of this reason Mzimba Gemstone Mining cooperative society is engaging with the miners in the district to work together for them to start realizing meaningful profits through exports. Some of stones mined in the district include aquamarine, amethyst, garnets, citrine, tourmaline, quartz, epidote, apatite and many others.
Small scale mining is usually labor intensive hence with an increase in exports, it offers a greater opportunity for direct and indirect job creation, especially in rural areas. At the micro level, revenues generated from these mining activities increases local purchasing power as well as the demand for local products. Therefore mining gives hope for rural growth and economic empowerment.
The country is making some strides towards improving and creating a vibrant and a diversified mineral sector. However, these improvements have not been sufficient to secure a sustainable sector that is socially and economically integrated into the long-term development aspirations of its peoples. Financial support is necessary for the small scale mining sector to make a telling contribution to the sustainable growth and development of the country, and to the reduction of poverty as envisaged by the MGDS.
Looking at the way gemstone business was being conducted previously, many miners concluded that they were not realizing any profits from the business due to poor marketing systems hence the formation of Mzimba Gemstone Mining Cooperative Society Ltd (MGMCS).
The cooperative was established in 2009 by a few Small Scale miners of Mzimba. It was formed with the aim of representing and protecting the interest of Small scale miners and to explore means and ways of conducting viable gemstone business by processing gems and creating markets for the products.
The cooperative is very much involved in mining activities, gem cutting and polishing, capacity building and gem marketing.
Therefore Mzimba Gemstone Mining Cooperative Society Ltd works towards achieving economical prosperity of its members.
Mzimba Gemstone Mining Cooperative Society Ltd mission is to promote the potential of Gemstones mining in Mzimba for Sustainable Livelihood, Employment Creation and Economic Empowerment of its members.
To impart necessary mining production skills to members through trainings in collaboration with relevant and interested stakeholders.
To secure, establish and facilitate the marketing of gemstones nationally and internationally.
To prevent and discourage illegal mining and sales of minerals.
To set up a revolving fund to enable members to access the necessary finance and credit for their mining operations.
To establish links with international organizations in order to access volunteer technical experts to jointly take action to further and advance our mutual interest.
To encourage and promote high standards of environmental awareness in the small scale mining sector and encourage investment.
To effectively promote gender balancing in the small scale mining sector.