In March and April 2016, the Institute for Community Mobilisation and Empowerment (ICOME) carried out theatre for development activities in three mining and exploration areas in Malawi, financed by the Tilitonse Fund. Communities around project and mining sites managed by Eland Coal Mining Company (coal mining in Karonga), Nyala Mines Ltd (corundum (ruby and sapphire) production in Ntcheu) and Mkango Resources Ltd (exploration for rare earths in Phalombe) shared some of the benefits and impacts perceived to be caused by the companies. ICOME and Norwegian Church Aid released a report covering their opinions and concerns. Since the report was released, the companies have been approached by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) to respond and their feedback is now available online.
Mkango Resources was applauded for its approach to engagement and consultation with communities in the area and for improving education facilities and road networks, despite only being in the exploration phase of the project (p. 69-99). However, some community members complained that the committee that deals with Mkango on their behalf is not representative and does not share information.
Mkango’s Chief Executive Officer Will Dawes responded
Some of our team members were with them during their visit to our site in Malawi and we support their objectives of enhancing community participation in projects. […]
One of Mkango’s core principles is to ensure that there will be poverty reduction, improved education and empowerment of previously disadvantaged groups within the communities that we work in. Therefore, it is important for us to implement meaningful, sustainable and successful social responsibility programmes commensurate with the stage of exploration and development. The company has committed itself to applying good international practise in terms of community engagement and CSR activities for our project.
According to the report (p. 35-68), Nyala Mines has positively contributed to improving healthcare and educational facilities near the mine. However, complaints were raised about the employment conditions for guards at the mine and community access to water. Nyala Mines provided two detailed responses (see here and here). In a letter, Managing Director, Abdul Mohamed, explained the entire value chain and wrote
we are committed to raising our standards whereby we would be considered a ‘model’ of national development and an invaluable asset to our nation. However, we are also mindful of an increasingly hostile environment that does not auger well for a smooth progression. Nevertheless, we are determined to succeed in spite of any obstacle or iniquity that confronts us because we believe that justice will always prevail in the long run – and we are certainly here for the long haul.
C12, an independent Malawi-based environmental consultancy, which has conducted an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for Nyala Mines, provided an in-depth analysis of the report, highlighting not only the factual and technical inconsistencies within the report but also how the ESIA captures points raised by community members.
Community members, especially those in Mesiya village, around Mwabulambo coal mine run by Eland Coal Mining Company alleged that they were not consulted about the mining project and received opportunities for only casual labour. They also accused the company of not fulfilling the memorandum of understanding it signed with the community to provide healthcare and education facilities and of not fully compensating relocated families (p. 7-34). The report also noted that community members observed water and air pollution as a result of the mine and non-rehabilitation of areas no longer in production. Eland Coal Mining Company, a subsidiary of Cyprus-based Independent Oil & Resources Plc, is yet to respond to the report.
ICOME also made a number of recommendations (p.100) to civil society organisations based on their work with the community members in the three areas,
- Avoid bringing in conflicting messages on mining issues that misinform the community on mining and develop hatred towards mining companies a case of Phalombe.
- Start engaging with mining investors on a positive way and not on a negative way that view a mining company as a rival.
- Continue exerting pressure to government on policy review.
- Start aligning community structures i.e. Community Action Groups to mining companies in order for the community to develop trust with mining investors.