Community participation required at Chimwadzulu ruby mine
It is a welcome development that the government has awarded the license for Chimwadzulu corundum mine in Ntcheu to a new company, Mwalawanga Mining Limited after the expiry of the 10 years license for Nyala Mines, whose application for renewal was rejected reportedly due to the company’s failure to fulfil some conditions of the license.
The government’s action has come at the right time because there was chaos at the mine as members of the community including women and school children invaded the mine to extract the rubies and sapphires, the precious gems which can fetch prices higher than diamonds on the world market when well processed.
The news is that the new mine owners have deployed a security company which is using trained dogs to guard the mine against the illegal miners, who invaded the mine when they got wind of the news that Nyala has lost the mineral rights for the area.
While commending the government and the new mineral rights holder for bringing sanity at the site, we feel there is still need to involve the local communities in the mining process.
We, therefore, support the point made by Chairperson for Tonse Tipindule Committee from the area, Nazalio Linyenga, who in our lead article calls on government to come up with an arrangement which will involve training members of the communities in artisanal mining to allow them mine the precious stones and sell them to the licenced company.
We also back his idea that government should facilitate that a community development agreement be signed between the investor and the community which should clearly define the mine’s benefits to the community.
We feel the government should also scale up monitoring activities to ensure that the investor is really fulfilling the terms of the licence.
It is unfortunate that during the 10 years that Nyala has held the mining license, the government which signed a development agreement with the investor and held 10% shareholding in the mine displayed grave weaknesses in monitoring proceeds from the mine.
Our investigations show that the government which would have been represented by the Secretary for Natural Resources, Energy and Mining or the Secretary for Treasury in the Chimwadzulu mine board never showed any interest in the issue such that it appeared as if Nyala had 100% ownership of the mineral rights.
The development agreement that the government signed with Nyala also recommended that 30% of the shareholding should be held by local small-scale miners but it is unfortunate that this was not even enforced by the government despite loud cries from local small-scale miners to participate in the mine.
Now that we have a new investor at Chimwadzulu, we call on the government to wake up from its slumber and ensure that the mine benefits not only the investor but also the government and members of the community in the area.
We also call on the new investor to desist from the practice of corrupting community leaders and some vocal opinion leaders in the area instead of pursuing development activities that would benefit the community at large.
The government and the new investor must also ensure that there is transparency in the mining process by, among other things, holding meetings with the Chimwadzulu communities on the progress of the mining project. Otherwise, just like the case was with Nyala, the new investor will find it hard to tame disgruntled members of the community who feel the government has engaged outsiders to cash in on precious minerals found on their ancestral land.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 57 (January 2018).