Marcel Chimwala, Editor of Mining & Trade Review
Overcome the power crisis to attract mining investors
Malawians will have to remember the year 2016 for the positives and negatives. On the positive note, it is the year when Malawi hosted the second investment forum in the month of October.
It is also the year when the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining launched the Geological Mapping and Mineral Assessment Project (GEMMAP), which is set to produce updated maps depicting the mineral potential of Malawi.
More important still, in October 2016, Malawi hosted the all important expert council tour and meeting for the European Union funded Hi-Teck Alkarb project team which conducted a research on rare earth exploration on the Chilwa Alkaline Province in the southern region.
All these activities bear testimony to the fact that Malawi is serious in attracting investment in mining and other related sectors.
However, as many investors said at the Malawi Investment Forum, which was held at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe, there cannot be mining without power.
It is, therefore, imperative for the government to substantially invest in power projects if Malawi is to realize its dream of attaining economic prosperity through mining as latest mineral exploration reports show that the country has sizeable quantities of minerals including rare earths in the Chilwa Alkaline Province, which hosts of several proven deposits such as Kangankunde and Songwe Hill.
There are also deposits of heavy mineral sands in Chipoka area along the shores of Lake Malawi which could be developed if adequate power was available to the industry.
As noted in our main article, one of the reasons why Paladin Africa suspended mining at Kayelekera is that with the subdued price of the yellow cake on the world market, it became expensive for the company to maintain operations using diesel generators as it was not possible to tap power from the national grid due to the prevailing power deficiencies.
This shows that the power crisis in Malawi is proving harmful. Therefore, we would like to see projects such as the Mozambique-Malawi power interconnector and construction of power stations such as Lower Fufu, Mpatamanga, Kammwamba, Kholombidzo and Songwe fast-tracked.
We wonder that some of these projects have been on the drawing board for years of different government administrations so what is failing their take-off?
Definitely, it should be lack of seriousness on the part of government to implement the projects so if the government is not showing seriousness to implement such important projects, can the investors be serious?
Certainly, in 2017 we need a government that has the zeal to implement power projects. If cooperating partners have helped Malawi to build other infrastructure such as the national stadium in Lilongwe, the new parliament building and the Karonga-Chitipa road, what can fail them to help us develop electricity if we are serious?
Let 2017 be the year of action not rhetoric. We can host parties for the so-called investors in the name of investment forums for years but they will be far from investing their money in Malawi if we fail to address the investment hurdles notably the power crisis.
The article above was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 44 that is circulating this December 2016.
The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.