World Bank-funded Mineral Rights Management System takes shape
…Cadastral system expected to roll out by June 2017
… Automated operation to improve transparency in sector
By Chiku Jere
The Department of Mines has confirmed that the World Bank-funded modernised Mineral Rights Management System (MRMS), that Malawi is developing through Canada-based computer programming consultants, Spatial Dimension, is taking shape, and is expected to be up and running by June 2017.
Mining & Trade Review learnt about the development of the new computerised mining cadastre system, FlexiCadastre, during the workshop which was recently held at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe where stakeholders were taken through the Prototype MRMS and updated on the project progress.
In his welcoming remarks, Department of Mines’ Director Atileni Wona described the system as significant saying it will enhance transparency and accountability in the management of the mining sector.
I am glad that we have reached this far in moving towards fulfilling this landmark achievement. It will be a great day for transparency when we finally launch this important facility!
In his presentation, Spatial Dimension’s Senior Consultant Charles Young demonstrated to the participants the Prototype MRMS noting that the system will be implemented by June next year.
We have already completed several phases of the project and we are currently focusing on the design and implementation phases,
The FlexiCadastre MRMS is a browser-based solution that will enable access to mining information at a click of a button in so doing simplifying the way mining and fiscal transactions are done in the country.
All necessary mining transactions from licence application to revenue transactions will be managed through the MRMS. It will provide a convenient way of doing business while in the comfort of one’s preferred location,
Young said that the project deliverables will include a back office MRMS, an online License Map Portal and online License Management Portal which will allow government, license holders and other stakeholders like the civil society and the public to easily monitor obligations and overall management of mineral resources.
He said by interrogating the information in the system, stakeholders in the mining sector will be able to extract important data that can help in the development of relevant reports pertaining to issues of governance of the sector.
The system is all about transparency and accountability and it will contribute positively towards the country’s commitment to achieving the Extractives Industry Transparent Initiative (EITI) Standard requirements
He also said that the system is a tool that will reduce corruption or any underhand dealings.
The MRMS is fool proof and secure. It keeps track of every transaction and records all activities performed by the cadastre officers. Above all, no one can short-cut the MRMS because it records and denies any improper input,
He said this will prevent any sort of manipulation, favouritism and corruption when awarding licences.
It applies the “first in/first assessed” principle, meaning whoever applies for the licence first will be awarded the licence should they meet the minimum and technical financial criteria. No preferential treatment and no back door dealings; something that will improve resource governance,
Senior Mining Engineer and Head of Mineral Rights Section at the Department of Mines, Gibson Nyirenda, hailed the development of the new MRMS describing it as an all-important undertaking which will transform the management of the mining sector.
This will see all the data about mining transactions being conveyed into a cadastre pack (an online computerised system) conveniently accessible to all,
He explained that such a development will ensure good data management, and enhance data quality, hence boosting investor confidence and promoting investment in the Malawi mining sector.
According to Nyirenda, the system will provide license holders and other stakeholders 24/7 access to detailed information about their license portfolio which includes license history, upcoming payments and reports, and will help to create efficiency by allowing companies to fulfill their legal obligations by making online payments for fees due and submitting required reports.
On the part of government, this will make revenue collection easier while companies will be provided with an oversight auditing history that will also simplify the task of gathering important information into the their data bank,
Apart from enhancing transparency and accountability, Nyirenda said the installation of the system will play a great role in easing the conduct of business in mining sector.
For instance, he said, the system will integrate all of mining sector’s legal business processes, turning itself into an obligation monitoring tool for government, civil society, the public as well as investors.
The new system is designed to provide functions like accurate capture of data and validation of license overlaps on application hence reducing possible conflicts with licences and restricted areas.
The MRMS manages the licensing process from application to expiry. It notifies up and coming renewals and expiries, allows for revenue tracking, management and reporting as well as generates official documents and reports, which ensures full data monitoring and auditing,
Furthermore, the system integrates the regulatory, institutional and technological aspects relating to tenement administration forming the cornerstone of good mineral resource management. This will not only ease government officers’ workload but also remove the bureaucratic inconveniences that have previously ended up frustrating wilful investors.
So as you can see, this new system is a game-changer that will make the mining sector more attractive, eventually leading to much needed investment that may end up transforming the country’ economic fortunes given Malawi’s resource potential.
The old system has many disadvantages among them; lack of central system to record applications that are mainly submitted at Head Office in Lilongwe or the two Regional Offices in Blantyre and Mzuzu, by hand or post.
The old manual system also delayed business as mining license claims and applications received at regional offices were not immediately sent to the Head Office because of cost implications and were delayed for two or more weeks so that the office should have several applications to send together.
Currently, it is also complicated and time-consuming to manage licence application process manually, resulting in a backlog of applications.
However, the new system addresses all these hurdles and although it is designed on the current Laws and Regulations, it is poised for reconfiguration upon the enactment of the revised Mines and Minerals Bill which is pending for tabling in parliament.
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka says the development of the cadastral system is one of the steps the government is putting in place to transform the mining sector, which has been identified as one of the key priority areas that can foster sustainable economic growth.
In this regard, the current Government, through the dynamic leadership of His Excellency, Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi, attaches strong commitment to ensuring the growth of the mining sector through various deliberate initiatives which are aimed at establishing a conducive investment environment in the mining sector,
The other initiatives that the government is undertaking to develop the minerals sector include the geological remapping programme which Msaka launched earlier this year, ongoing review of archaic laws including the 1981 Mines and Minerals Act and development of an artisanal and small-scale mining policy.
The World Bank and European Union are financing the development of the cadastral system as part of the Mining Governance and Growth Support Project.
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.