Massive for Masi
…Experts expect action from new mines minister
…Enactment of new mines law a priority
By Chiku Jere
Players in the minerals sector say there is need for the new Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Aggrey Masi – MP, to remain focused and accommodate advice from experts if the country is to effectively implement reforms that will propel the budding sector to become one of the major contributors to the country’s agriculture-reliant economy.
The stakeholders have voiced their views in the wake of State President Peter Mutharika’s appointment of the Lilongwe City West MP as Minister responsible for mines replacing Bright Msaka.
In an exclusive interview, President of Malawi Chamber of Mines and Energy Dean Lungu urged the minister to keep the door to his office open in order to take as much sound advice from experts of the field as he can.
Lungu said that the Chamber and its members are more than willing to engage the minister and provide advice wherever and whenever necessary.
The minister needs to embrace an open door policy. We believe that he will understand that this is the time to speed up our concerted efforts and trigger the mining industry into vibrancy, turning it into a major contributor to the country’s economy,
He said the government needs to involve the local private mining firms in pursuing its reforms to uplift the country’s mineral sector, which is still in its infancy.
There is need to promote engagement and cooperation, and begin to decisively implement existing mining projects. Let the minister call us for round table discussions now and then.
It is unfortunate that we, members of the private sector, only engage the minister when we are looking for licenses. The minute we get the licenses, we run away and stay disengaged. I believe that we should stay in touch and move together; updating each other on every development,
But Board Chairperson for Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN) Kossam Jomo Munthali said it was encouraging to note that recently there has been engagement and coordination between government officials and the civil society which has created an atmosphere of understanding between the two sides.
What the new minister needs to do is consolidate and strengthen this relationship. As you can see, officials from government now understand what CSO engagement is all about in terms of providing critical and constructive input,
He said CSOs have always been misunderstood as a difficult group of people, which he said they are not.
As CSOs we realise that our role is to support government in providing checks and balances, which other people may term as the art of providing different perspectives and different school of thoughts,
Munthali said embracing and perpetuating mutual cooperation, understanding and respect among players in the sector is the only way to advance mutual goal, which is to maximize benefits from natural resource endowment to all Malawians.
He pleaded with the minister to push for the tabling and passing of the Revised Mines and Minerals Bill, a long awaited legal framework that the top activist said would address many human rights issues affecting communities from mining areas as well as ensuring maximized benefits of the country’s natural resources to all.
Seasoned consulting geologist James Chatupa of Cratons Resources emphasized on the need for consistency as regards implementation of projects.
He said he finds it frustrating to note that the current laws that govern the mining sector are capable of providing necessary guidelines for exploration and mining operations, but instead, the country is bogged down in arguments on whether it should continue operating under the existing legal instruments while the amendment process is going on or wait for new laws.
In his opinion, Chatupa said it was better to allow the business in the sector continue so that progress is made, and incorporate the amended law along the way.
But it seems that on one hand, Malawi wants to make progress, but on another the country is pulling itself backwards,
He said would-be geoscientists that are being trained at Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) will need a mining industry with full of opportunities to get employed and that will not be possible with the current indecisiveness on the part of government.
For instance, the Kanyika Niobium project; the company was granted a mining licence and government managed to reach a development agreement with the investor, but till now no go-ahead has been given.
The new minister has to look into issues like these and facilitate quick decision making, if we are to move forward in the sector,
On the part of academia, Dr. Zuze Dulanya head of Geological and Earth Sciences department at Chancellor College urged the new minister to take a holistic approach in addressing problems rocking the mineral sector.
He said in as much as the country needs to groom geoscientists, there is need to tackle issues such as fostering conducive environment of doing business since the country is ranked lowly in as far as attracting investment is concerned due to, among other things, bureaucratic business registering process.
Dulanya said from a research and teaching perspective, there are things that they would have loved done, to support implementation of the newly revised and approved geosciences curriculum.
The curriculum alone without supporting infrastructure and equipment will not deliver the much desired goals, so there’s need for the minister to coordinate provision of up to date teaching and research facilities to facilitate the change the curriculum promises to bring. At the moment, we are far from it,
The academician also backed the notion of various players in the sector complementing each other and not competing.
The work of academicians and government departments such as Geological Survey and Mines Department should be seen as complementing each others’ efforts. At the moment, we are more of competitors. This has huge implications on the progress we make in the sector and beyond,
said Dulanya, quickly adding that these were his personal views and he could be wrong.
In an interview with Mining & Trade Review, Masi agreed on the need to coordinate mining sector stakeholder efforts in order to turn the dream of having a vibrant and economically reliable mining industry into reality.
He acknowledged that the passing of the new mining law remains pertinent in this respect and promised to do everything possible to expedite its enactment, adding that the bill will probably be tabled in the next sitting of parliament.
He however made an appeal to Corporate Entities, Civil Society Organisations and those who matter in the sector to embrace reforms that government is implementing as well as come forth with progressive ideas that will lead to the growth of the sector.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 52 (August 2017).