Sovereign engages stakeholders on Malingunde graphite project

201804 Malawi Mining & Trade Review Cartoon ESIA Mining Sovereign MetalsSovereign engages stakeholders on Malingunde graphite project

By Deborah Manda

ASX-listed Sovereign Metals has kick-started consultations with stakeholder groups and community members in its Malingunde Flake Graphite prospecting area in Lilongwe to present to them the environmental scoping report and also get their views, comments and concerns on the project.

Speaking during the presentation of an environmental scoping report to stakeholders in Lilongwe, Anelle Lotter of AECOM, an international consultancy executing environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for the project, said the main aim of the scoping phase of the ESIA is to identify potential environmental and social issues that will require detailed investigation and assessment by a range of specialists as well as develop the terms of references (ToR) for a variety of specialist studies to be undertaken.

The specific objective of the scoping phase is to provide opportunity for all key project stakeholders; thus relevant authorities, stakeholder groups and community members in the project area to exchange information with the project team and express their views and concerns regarding the project,

said Lotter.

The scoping report outlines some of the potential impacts and issues that will be assessed in further details in the environmental and social impact assessment ranging from terrestrial flora and fauna, geochemistry (acid mine drainage), aquatic ecology, surface and ground water, soils and land capability, air quality and greenhouse gas, noise and vibrations, visual impact assessment, resettlement action plan, social impact assessment, heritage and archaeology, health impact assessment, and rehabilitation and closure plan.

Sovereign Metals plans to use open pit mining with traditional excavator and haul trucks to mine the ore at Malingunde.

The report says:

Mining will be free-dig in nature and no drilling and blasting activities will be required for the operation as the material is relatively soft.

Mining will be undertaken in a number of long, shallow open pits, with maximum depths of 25m and maximum widths of approximately 200m.

The scoping report also highlights potential impacts and issues that need to be considered based on concerns raised by stakeholders during consultations as well as identified by various specialists.

The issues include creation of employment opportunities, and the labour will be from local communities close to the project site as well as from Lilongwe.

The project will also contribute to improvement in social infrastructure subject to agreement with the government.

Subject to agreement with government, community development projects or funding could be created by the project and be used to improve infrastructure and services at the local and regional level,

reads the report.

The report also stipulates that the project will likely contribute to the regional economy, either by its input to an increase of exports or incentives for small and medium enterprises associated with the project.

But there are also negative impacts that could arise once mining starts including increased soil erosion as heavy machinery and mining vehicles may result in the compaction of soil, leading to decreased infiltration of rain water and increased surface run-off volumes and velocities, increasing the risk of erosion. Such impacts may result from the stripping and stockpiling of topsoil, polluted water run-off, spillages of hydrocarbons and chemical and erosion.

These impacts may further alter nutrients, chemical and physical properties of the soil, thus reducing its ability to support certain land uses post closure,

says the report.

It further says that there will be increased levels of dust in the area particularly during the dry season, and dust settling on plant material can reduce photosynthesis which in turn reduces plant productivity, growth and recruitment.

There will also be an impact on aquatic biodiversity as changes in water quality as a result of surface water run-off could impact on aquatic biodiversity in the Kamuzu dam II and river systems.

Increased sedimentation of aquatic systems could potentially affect macro invertebrate communities, decrease photosynthesis and impact fish population,

the report reads.

Lotter told the meeting that engagement with stakeholders on the project will continue throughout the Environmental and Social Impact assessment phase; and comments, issues and queries raised will inform the feasibility studies and be incorporated in the ESIA report.

As part of the social impact assessment and data collection for the resettlement action plan, consultations will be undertaken at household level and will commence in late April 2018 and the detailed ESIA phase and specialists studies are expected to be completed by September 2018,

said Lotter.

Sovereign is currently conducting a number of technical studies, which will culminate in a feasibility study to determine the financial viability of developing a mine at Malingunde.

An economic scoping study for the project was completed in mid2017. The results of the study demonstrates that the project has the potential to be developed as a low capital and operating cost operation, with an annual graphite concentration production of approximately 44,000 tonnes over an initial life-of-mine of 17 years.

Malingunde is a large high-grade saprolite-hosted flake graphite deposit on the Lilongwe plain.

***

This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 60 (April 2018).

The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.

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