Stakeholders bemoan delays in enacting new Mines Law
…Bill with Attorney General’s Office –Minister
By Marcel Chimwala
Stakeholders in Malawi’s minerals sector have bemoaned delays by the government in tabling the revised Mines and Minerals Bill (MMB) in parliament saying the country needs a new law in place to ensure that its citizens get a fair share of benefits from mineral resources.
The stakeholders who have voiced out their concerns include representatives of the civil society, private sector, traditional leaders and small-scale miners.
On the civil society front, Programme Officer (Extractives) for the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA), Cynthia Simkonda, says it is unfortunate that Malawi continues to use the Mines and Minerals Act of 1981 which has resoundingly been branded as archaic and outdated.
The delays in enacting the new law is denying Malawian citizens especially members of the community in mining areas benefits they could get from aspects of the new legislation such as community development agreements,
Board Chairperson for Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN), Kossam Munthali, says delays in enacting the new law defeats the unity of purpose among all stakeholders to promote transparency, accountability and fairness in the mining sector.
Munthali says the delay is posing several challenges as the law was crafted to prevent fraud, corruption, mitigate licence disputes, enforce adherence to community development agreements which will reduce hostilities towards investors and all in all ensure effective management and governance of the entire mining industry.
You might be aware that Malawi is soon supposed to go under EITI (Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative) assessment 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,
On the private sector side; Coordinator for Malawi Chamber of Mines, Grain Malunga, says there is need for the government to enact the new law as soon as possible in order to create a vibrant mining industry that will move the ailing national economy to greater heights.
In this time when countries across the globe are competing for foreign direct investment, the delay in embracing the new law may affect Malawi as an investment destination as investors will not be certain of Malawi’s legislative environment,
Geologist James Chatupa of Craton Resources agrees with Malunga in calling on government to ensure that there is in place a piece of legislation respected by all stakeholders in the mining sector including the government, mining companies, the civil society and members of the community.
Our parliamentarians must expedite the revisions of some of the clauses in the law where shortfalls and weaknesses have been identified,
says Chatupa in his write-up presented to participants at a Knowledge Exchange Workshop on stakeholders oversight role of the mining sector which CEPA held in Salima with financial support from Tilitonse Fund.
Traditional leaders have also added voice in lobbying the government to expedite the enactment of the new law with Paramount Chief Kyungu stressing that the community development agreements clauses in the new law will help the government to enforce mining companies to fulfil the corporate social responsibility pledges they make when launching projects.
We need this law to ensure that corporate social responsibility is real. Companies should not run away from it,
Adding his voice, Mzimba-based small-scale miner, Chikomeni Manda, says it is unfortunate that the mining sector is governed by the Mines and Minerals Act of 1981 which does not adequately regulate the artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) activities making it difficult for ASMs to operate within the legal framework.
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka, however, assures Malawians that he will make sure that the Bill is taken on board in the current parliamentary session.
Msaka says the Bill is with the Attorney General’s office going through the final process before it is submitted to cabinet and finally parliament.
My Ministry already finalized working on the bill and it is now with the Attorney General’s office. I, personally, will make sure that it finds its way to the Order Paper in the next sitting which is part of the ongoing session,
He says mining still remains one of the key priority sectors that can significantly contribute to socioeconomic development of the country as envisioned in the current Malawi Growth and Development Strategy.
However, in order for the mining industry and our mineral resources to make the expected contribution to the country’s economic growth, there is need for concerted, consistent and steadfast effort towards promotion of sustainable mining. This, in the main, will be possible only if we develop a sound and comprehensive mining legislation, which takes into account prevailing international best practices, attract investment and enables Malawians to derive optimum benefits from mining.
The Minister also says he envisages a modern Mines and Minerals Law to be one that adequately addresses corporate social responsibility, has in place a system for determining fair practices, enforces transparent and accountable decision making, encourages local equity participation, recognises the value of minerals exhibitions, protects investors from being hounded out of their investments, and does not ignore the role of women and the youth.
The 1981 Mines and Minerals Act currently in use was formulated during late Kamuzu Banda’s one party regime and puts the mineral resources in the hands of the Life President on behalf of the people.
In contrast, the proposed minerals legislation, which was expected to come into force in 2015, rests the ownership of minerals in the State on behalf of the people of Malawi.
In the proposed law, there is a provision for the establishment of the Mineral Resources Committee which will compose of Principal Secretaries for the ministries responsible for Mining, Economic Planning and Development, Local Government, Water, Environment, Lands and Treasury, and also Directors for Mines, Geological Survey, Parks and Wildlife and Forestry Departments.
The Chairperson of the Mineral Resources Committee shall be the Principal Secretary of the Ministry responsible for Mining while the Secretary shall be the Commissioner, and the Secretariat shall be the Commissioner’s office.
A part from reducing the powers of the President in the governance of the mineral resources, the proposed law also reduces the powers of the Minister responsible and tends to give more powers to the Mineral Resources Committee.
The Minister may not grant an exploration licence, retention licence, medium scale mining licence or large scale mining licence unless the Mineral Resources Committee has approved the respective application, and any grant of a licence that contravenes this subsection is null and void,
states the proposed law.
The piece “Stakeholders bemoan delays in enacting new Malawi Mines Law” featured above was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 40 that is circulating this August 2016.
The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.