New policy raises hope for Malawian small-scale miners – Mining Review (December 2014)

The piece “New policy raises hope for Malawian small-scale miners” featured below was initially published in Malawi’s Mining Review Issue Number 20 2014 that was circulated in December 2014. This is the final edition for 2014.

The focus of the piece – the symposium to review Malawi’s draft Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Policy – was also covered here.

The full edition of the Mining Review can be read here: Mining Review No. 20 December 2014

To learn more about this quarterly publication, edited by Marcel Chimwala, read the post about the “Voice of the mineral sector in Malawi”.

ASM Draft Policy Review Symposium, Lilongwe, November 2014

New policy raises hope for Malawian small-scale miners

“We mine and sell precious stones but we are poor.” This was the statement echoed by a large section of small-scale miners at a symposium to formulate the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) policy held in Lilongwe from November 11 to 12.

The symposium was organized with funding from different stakeholders including the Malawi Government, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), FDH Bank, a Washington-based non-governmental organization PACT, and the World Bank and European Union through the Mining Governance and Growth Support Project.

It answered the concern from small scale miners on why they are still wallowing in the poverty trap though they are involved in the mining of precious stones.

The problem is that the sector is not yet formalized and they are no organized markets for ASM products in the country hence many ASMs end up being duped by middle men who buy the stones at an unrealistically low prices and sell them at a whooping profit to international buyers,

said Director of Mines at the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Mr. Charles Kaphwiyo.

Mr. Kaphwiyo said it is against this background that the Malawi Government is formulating the ASM policy that will guide in formalizing small-scale mining activities in Malawi in order to ensure optimal benefits for the miners, the government and the economy at large.

A large group of small-scale miners drawn from across the country were consulted through the symposium to get their recommendations on the draft ASM policy.

Several challenges hampering the activities of the miners were pointed out including limited access to modern technologies, lack of capital for investment in mining and mineral value addition and limited access to established markets.

The other challenges for small-scale miners tabled at the symposium included inadequate marketing skills, informal mining operations, inability to understand geological information and disregard to basic mining occupational health, safety, and environmental considerations.

It is my considered view that if we are to overcome these challenges, we need to transform the ASM subsector from an informal to a formal footing,

said Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Honourable Atupele Muluzi.

Honourable Muluzi said the Government wants operators in the sector to be licensed, mining activities regularly monitored and inspected, and the country should endevour to organize a formal market for ASM, especially for gemstones.

He also said the country needs to begin to add value to its gemstones by polishing and cutting the gems locally in order to realize optimal benefits from the resources.

Furthermore, the minister said, artisanal and small-scale mining operations should be conducted in accordance with applicable safety and security requirements and should safeguard the wellbeing of the environment.

Muluzi said:

We should also endevour to curb illegal ASM operations and smuggling of our precious stones, which robs us of revenue and jobs for our people.

Finally, all operations in this sub-sector should be held to the highest standards of transparency and accountability. Those who fail to comply should have their licences revoked. We should rise to a high threshold where Malawian gemstones are traceable on the international market.

He said development of the artisanal and small-scale mining subsector is part of the government plans to diversify the economic base of Malawi in order to generate more wealth for all Malawians and reduce poverty for the rural masses.

UNDP’S Country Representative for Malawi, Ms Mia Seppo, concurred with Muluzi in supporting Government’s plans to formalize the subsector through the new ASM policy saying the policy is in tandem with UNDP’s strategy on Harnessing Extractive Industries for Human Development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Said Seppo:

This strategy seeks to address capacity development needs in policy, governance, accountability and transparency in the Extractive Industries sector. The UN takes a holistic approach to Extractive Industries and we consider issues such as the health and social impacts, the gender and human rights dimension as well as economic and environmental aspects all of which must be taken into account when developing extractive industries. Harnessing Extractive Industries to advance human development is a top priority for the UN and I am therefore pleased that UNDP is associated with this consultative symposium.

She explained that worldwide, UNDP focuses on “people-centered” exploitation of extractive industries that contribute to “human development,” and this entails the ability of people to live long lives full of choices and in ways they have a reason to value.”

Seppo pointed out that often, the UNDP strategy proposes an integrated package of interventions in the areas of Governance, including participation, transparency and accountability, Environmental and social sustainability, Conflict prevention and Engagement of the private sector, civil society and local groups (in particular women’s organizations and indigenous people’s organizations, foundations and other stakeholders and Economic and social policy formulation.

She warned that there is a great need to formalize the ASM subsector because if it is not well regulated, it can be an impediment to “human development”.

In the majority of African countries, ASM sub-sector provides a number of employment opportunities, particularly to women and youth.

Seppo said the same could be the case with Malawi if the formalization process is successfully concluded.

Said Seppo:

Streamlining of licensing procedures and bringing together of small scale miners into groups such as cooperatives will allow them to meaningfully participate in the subsector and, in the medium- and long-term, open up steady markets. This will help move these miners out of the poverty trap. The benefits to Government from a well regulated subsector can also be enormous. As the country continues to experience financial constraints to support development programmes, revenue from ASM subsector can serve as additional source of financing for programs that further advance human development.

She also called for concerted efforts among stakeholders to support the ASM subsector to increase participation and strengthen capacities of the artisanal and small scale mining operators saying if well supported, the sector will immensely improve the human development status of the rural masses.

Government is formulating the ASM policy in accordance with the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II, which seeks to promote the participation of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners in mineral development.

Secretary for Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Ben Botolo also said the policy is in line with the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) Protocol on Mining of 1997-Article 7, African Mining Vision and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative for mining.

The symposium for the formulation of the policy was organized with the theme “Unlocking Opportunity for Artisanal and Small Scale Mining industry for Social and Economic Development in Malawi.”

At the end of the two day symposium, hope was ignited for the impoverished small-scale miners that with the policy in place, they will not again echo the statement “We mine precious stones but we are poor” as the precious stones will bring them the riches they deserve.

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