The piece “Mist dogs Mines Bill” featured below was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 38 that is circulating this June 2016.
The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.
Mist dogs Mines Bill
By Chiku Jere & Marcel Chimwala
Players in the mining sector will have to wait further for the tabling of the all-important revised Mines and Minerals Bill as once again the bill misses on the ‘Order Paper’ of the current sitting of Parliament.
But Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Bright Msaka confirmed to Mining & Trade Review that the bill was already submitted to the Ministry of Justice for the vetting process, which is conducted before the bill goes to Cabinet for approval.
Msaka said he was surprised that the bill was not included on the order paper for the current sitting saying the situation implied that the other concerned departments were still working on it.
My Ministry finalized all the work and submitted the bill to the Ministry of Justice for vetting. What you have to know is that after the vetting process by the Ministry of Justice, the bill goes to cabinet for approval and it is the cabinet that gets it to the national assembly. In this case, it could be that the Bill is on its way,
He promised to ensure that the bill is taken on board in the next sitting which is still part of the ongoing parliamentary session.
This current sitting is specifically for the budget and there are equally important bills to be discussed including the one tackling taxation of exploration and mining projects and our own Electricity Bill. Let us give a chance to these bills. I will make sure that the Mines and Minerals Bill is taken on board in the next sitting,
The development means the Malawi mining sector will have to continue operating using the old legal framework – Mines and Minerals Act 1981- which has resoundingly been branded as archaic and outdated.
In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), State President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika said the government will work on reviewing mining legislation as one way of developing the sector.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Malawi’s unique mineral potential continues to attract interest from both local and foreign investors. We are now focusing on creating an appropriate investment environment through reviewing of mining legislation and establishment of mining cadastre,
But the delay in tabling the Mines and Minerals Bill has not gone down well with stakeholders in the sector. Board Chairperson for Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN) Kossam Munthali said the delay surmounts to defeating the unity of purpose among all stakeholders to promote transparency, accountability and fairness in mining sector.
The delay is posing several challenges as the law was crafted to prevent fraud, corruption, mitigate license disputes, enforce adherence to community development agreements which will reduce hostilities towards investors, and all in all, ensure effective management and good governance of the entire mining industry,
Munthali also said the delay defeats the purpose of the very manifesto that ushered the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) into power.
You may wish to know that Chapter 19 page 41 of the DPP manifesto commits to prioritise the development of the mining sector to back agriculture as an alternative major contributor to the economy by among other things fast-tracking implementation of proper legal and policy framework. So, the delay to table this important bill means the ruling party is tracking back from its own promise to electorates who entrusted them with the power to govern,
The NRJN board chair further expressed fear that the delay will decimate the achievements that Malawi has this far attained relating to Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
You might be aware that we are soon supposed to go under EITI assessment process and the delay will do Malawi’s candidature no favour as there is a requirement of operational legal framework in order for a country to move towards being deemed compliant,
Malawi Chamber of Mines and Energy also said it is equally baffled with the failure to table the bill with founder member Grain Malunga describing it as very unfortunate and defeating to the purpose of trying to create a vibrant and economically viable mining industry.
I really doubt the seriousness of government on this issue. We were told that the bill will be tabled in this June sitting but now we have information that it has not been sent to cabinet and it is still with the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ministry. I wonder how long it takes to vet the already drafted Bill. In my own understanding a serious officer assigned to the job cannot take more than a week to complete the vetting process and make appropriate recommendations,
Malunga, a seasoned geologist and former Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment, said the delay may affect Malawi as an investment destination as investors will not be certain of Malawi’s legislative environment.
Fears are also rife that the law might delay further in parliament as some Members of Parliament blatantly expressed reservations as regard passing the bill, saying that it is full of flaws.
Chairperson for Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs,Werani Chilenga, said he was shocked to hear that the bill was referred to the Ministry of Justice for final vetting when the agreement between the committee and the ministry officials was that they send it back to the committee to verify if their input had been included.
Let me categorically state that if the bill comes to Parliament without including what we proposed, then consider it rejected. We’ll not pass it,