Malawi to hold third alternative mining indaba this month
…Meeting to give a voice to rural communities
…Stakeholder engagement crucial-Villumstad
By Marcel Chimwala
Preparations are underway for Malawi to hold the third alternative mining indaba with the theme “transforming Malawi’s natural resources into sustainable development.”
The indaba, which will be held at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe from December 18 to 19 this year, has been organized by Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) with funding from Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA), Oxfam Malawi and Natural Resources Justice Network.
We have organized this Indaba as a follow up to last year’s indaba. The aim of this indaba is to allow rural communities in mining areas to have their voices heard by duty bearers as you know these people are often sidelined in decision making on mining activities though they are directly affected by the social and environmental impacts of the projects,
says Economic Justice Coordinator for NCA, Thokozani Mapemba.
He explains that, among other issues, the indaba will discuss legal provisions governing the country’s minerals sector including the Mines and Minerals Act of 1981, the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act of 1983,the Explosives Act of 1968, and the Environmental Management Act of 1996 and recommend legal provisions that need review in order to ensure that the sector adequately benefits the country’s citizens especially mining communities who are at the receiving end of bad mining practices.
Realising that the Malawi Mines and Minerals Act is outdated; CSOs launched a campaign to ask government to revise the Act so that it addresses burning issues and international best practices.
Consequently, the Government of Malawi has taken steps to review the Act, which is now in draft form and has been submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
The 2016 national mining indaba recommended that the Mines and Minerals Bill should take into account the community needs and ensure that the Bill is responsive to community demands by honouring and recognizing community development contracts and Mines and Minerals board.
The 2017 alternative mining indaba will provide a platform for community members to make additional contributions to the Mines and Mineral Bill. It will further pressure government to pass the bill in the next parliamentary sitting.
Domestication of Free, Prior and Informed Consent
Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) refers to the right of local communities, particularly indigenous peoples, to participate in decision making about issues affecting them.
Mapemba explains that this has not been the case with mining projects in Malawi as communities have not been given the right to give consent to projects and activities that displace them or their livelihoods and traditions.
The 2016 National Mining Indaba observed that the community is not effectively involved as a vital stakeholder in mining and duty bearers make most life changing decisions on their behalf with inadequate feedback mechanisms between citizens and duty bearers. This means that the rights of communities are not sufficiently protected from infringement of their right by company and government actions.
It is against this background that the indaba agreed that free prior and informed consent should be recognized by government and enforced as well. The 2017 alternative mining indaba will further advance this issue by presenting practical examples and further persuade authorities to seriously address issues of free, prior and informed consent in the Mines and Minerals Bill.
Utilization of revenue from mining sector
Funds collected from the mining sector just like any other revenue from government is transferred to Government’s Account Number One, and communities where mining is taking place do not benefit despite often bearing the negative consequences of mining.
Moreover, revenue from non-renewable resources such as minerals has not been specifically earmarked for investment or public spending on infrastructure. At present, mineral revenues are low as a contribution to the gross domestic product. However, a national discussion and decision is required on how to manage potential revenue flows from minerals, oil and gas.
A trust fund may be a potential option, but this also could be exposed to financial mismanagement, as has been evidenced in the abuse of public finances from account number one,
He, therefore, explains that the 2017 mining indaba will advocate for communities share of the revenue through infrastructure development and will further dialogue with authorities to frame existing financial policies so that revenue collected from mining can best benefit community members.
Publication of agreements that government enter with investors, investor information and revenue collected
Taking advantage of the recently enacted Access to Information Law and in order to ensure that transparency and accountability is enhanced, the 2017 national mining indaba will push for publication of mining agreements.
The 2017 national mining indaba will dialogue with authorities to urge government to make mining agreements made with investors accessible to the public.
This will inform the public on progress being made in the mining sector and enable citizens to hold both government and companies accountable for the terms of agreements. The public deserves to know the investors involved in extracting their natural minerals,
Capacity development and establishment of laboratory for Ministry of Mines
During the 2016 National Alternative Mining Indaba, it was observed that the country lacks capacity in both petroleum and mining.
It was agreed during the Mining Indaba that government should increase investment in capacity building of young people in the above stated fields.
The trained Malawians will assist in negotiation and scrutinizing contracts and translate other geological terminologies, analyze samples and conduct research in the geological sector as it is vital for Malawi to have home grown capacity.
In addition, the country should source financing to establish a laboratory that can test samples within the country and to improve knowledge and research in the country and reduce operating costs in mineral development.
The 2017 National Alternative Mining Indaba will make a follow up on this matter and further pressurise government to pay attention to this matter,
Engagement with stakeholders
NCA Country Director Stain Villumstad stresses that the Indabas are important as they facilitate engagement among relevant stakeholders including members of the community from mining areas, civil society organizations, representatives of the academia, faith based organizations, traditional leaders, members of parliament, ward councillors, investors and government officials.
There is need for all these stakeholders to engage to advance pertinent issues in mining governance in order to ensure that decisions made in the governance of the mining sector represent the views and aspirations of all stakeholders including communities in mining areas,
says Villumstad, who proposes a dialogue-oriented as opposed to a confrontational approach with investors and the government.
Malawi held its first alternative mining indaba in 2014 and the second one was held last year.
Second alternative mining indaba
Malawi held its second Alternative Mining Indaba at Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe last year and the organizers included NCA, Action Aid, Tilitonse Fund and Oxfam with funding from Tilitonse Fund.
The theme of the Indaba was Making Laws Work for the People: Effective Legal and Regulatory Frameworks for Malawi’s Extractive Sector.
The indaba attracted representatives of communities from mineral exploration and mining areas, traditional leaders, CSOs, FBOs and representatives of government, mining and exploration companies.
Oxfam country Director Mr John Makina stressed the need for the civil society to make the indaba an annual event in order to thoroughly assess challenges that the minerals sector continues to bring and promote transparency, accountability and inclusiveness as the pillars of growth for the potential sector.
It is imperative that authorities incorporate recommendations from stakeholders across the board when making laws or pertinent decisions about the country’s natural resources and these alternative mining indabas give a chance to the authorities to get the views from the stakeholders,
Members of the community from mining areas who spoke at the event faulted the government for not consulting them before giving licenses to mining firms.
We just see strange people digging trenches in our gardens and when we approach them, they refer us to government,
said a Phalombe resident Silino Likovo.
Presidential Advisor on Non Governmental Organisations, Mavuto Bamusi, welcomed the idea of holding mining Indabas but warned the CSOs against using a confrontational approach against mining investors.
We have to put the mining activities in check but not chase away mining companies because as a country we are promoting mining which is a very important industry as it brings tax money in the country, boost economy and create jobs,
He, therefore, said government appreciates the role that CSOs play to make sure that mining companies abide by the principles of transparency and accountability.
As government, we view advocacy as an important element but CSOs have to pursue advocacy based on evidence and constructive engagement while dialogue should be priority,
Speaking on principles and domestication of FPIC in Malawi Titus Gwemende of Oxfam said the community have the right to know and participate in what the investors and government are doing and if they see that they are not satisfied with what they are discussing, they have the right to refuse.
The main aim of FPIC is to give chance to the people in the community to take part in the mining activities in their areas since they are the ones affected if any problem arises,
Commissioner for mines Charles Kaphwiyo, now retired, spoke about the revised Mines and Minerals Bill saying it addresses more issues than the old Act.
There are more exciting provisions in the new revised law including community development agreements, resettlement plan and social and environmental assessment,
National Coordinator for Malawi Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (MWEITI) George Harawa spoke of the important role the civil society plays in the Initiative saying EITI involves three constituencies which are the Government, Civil Society and Companies.
MWEITI is about companies declaring what they are paying to government and government declaring its revenue from the sector, Civil Society is the key part of the whole process as their role is to guide MWEITI secretariat and enlightening communities on the process,
The presentations were followed by a debate broadcast live on Zodiak Broadcasting Station and the topic was ‘What will it take/need to be done for Malawi to extract the oil and gas; the likely benefit for Malawi’ and the panellists’ were Leonard Kalindekafe of Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), Reinford Mwangonde of Citizens for Justice, James Chatupa of Craton Resources Consultants and Bamusi.
The indaba ended with demonstrations where people expressed what they want from government and the investors.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 56 (December 2017).