French expert calls for more gov’t investment in mining in Malawi
By Chiku Jere
French mining expert, Vincent Lafleche, has advised the Malawi Government to continue investing in the mining sector as several studies have indicated that Malawi is endowed with valuable mineral resource deposits whose exploitation can turn around the economic fortunes of the country.
Lafleche made the statement at Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe during the official launch of the five-year Geological Mapping and Mineral Assessment Project (GEMMAP), which the Malawi government is financing with proceeds from a 10.8-Million Euros (MK8.8billion) grant from the French government.
Lafleche is the President, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM) or Geological Survey of France, which, together with Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) and Council for Geosciences of South Africa (CGS), have partnered the Geological Survey Department of Malawi (GSD) to execute the project.
He said reluctance by the government to invest in mining implies delaying the realisation of economic benefits that can be attained from the deposits of valuable minerals spread across the country.
What you should know is that large-scale mining benefits take time to come. The minimum period for a mine to start production is 10 years with the maximum at 20 years hence the earlier one invests in mining the sooner benefits come,
The French expert stressed that Malawi cannot afford any delay as with the already identified resource potential, mining remains a viable option in as far as Malawi economic diversification drive is concerned.
He also said during this period when the demand for various mineral resources has plummeted due to low commodity prices on the world market, it is better to have already developed mines that will be ready to produce and promptly supply to demand in times of favourable resource price and beat market volatility that is always associated with minerals.
Doing prospecting work now is an advantage to the resource rich country as it puts you in a position to respond quickly to market needs since you are positioned way ahead of others,
said the expert.
Lafleche is familiar with Malawi’s mineral resources as in 2015, BRGM was contracted to edit a synthesis of knowledge on the country’s mineral resources in corporation with Geological Survey Department of Malawi.
GEMMAP will interpret the high resolution data obtained through the World Bank and European Union-funded airborne geophysical survey which pinpointed areas with high mineral potential.
Currently, the minerals sector contributes less than 3 percent to Malawi’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP) but there are expectations that the sector is expected to gradually surpass the 30 percent contribution of agriculture to GDP when the country’s mineral potential is fully exploited.
Malawi wants to move away from overreliance on agriculture as a mainstay of the country’s economy and diversify to other potential sectors such as mining because the future of the main crop, tobacco, appears doomed due to the worldwide anti-smoking lobby.
The country, whose mineral potential remains underexploited, boosts of deposits of uranium, heavy mineral sands, silica sand, rare earth minerals, bauxite, phosphate, gypsum, titanium, strontianite, vermiculite, limestone, dimension stone, precious/semi-precious stone, sulphides, pink granite; coal, among others.
Studies also reveal that the country has anomalies for high value minerals such as gold, platinum group metals and diamonds. There are also high prospects for the discovery of hydrocarbon reservoirs along the rift valley area which includes the Lake Malawi and Shire Valley zones.
The piece “French expert calls for more gov’t investment in mining in Malawi” featured above was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 39 that is circulating this July 2016.
The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.