Transparency needed on Makanjila mine issue
It is a welcome development that Government has granted Chinese firm New Kin International a mining licence for the Makanjila heavy mineral sands deposit in Mangochi.
As reported in our lead article, the Chinese firm, which previously held an exclusive prospecting licence (EPL) for the deposit, is ready to invest US$78-million to develop the mine at Makanjila.
Such is great news because a part from contributing to Malawi’s economy through payment of taxes to government, the mine will have multiple economic benefits including creation of employment opportunities for Malawians.
We also expect small businesses including farming and fishing ventures in the area to benefit as they will find a better market for their products at the mine.
The awarding of the licence has also shown that the government is strong willed to continue awarding large scale mining licences despite the backlash that came from civil society groups after it awarded the Kayelekera Uranium Mining licence to Australia’s Paladin.
However, we are very concerned with the secrecy that has shrouded the Makanjila heavy sands project since the onset.
As the Chairman for Natural Resource Justice Network (NRJN) Kossam Munthali is quoted in the lead article, it is unfortunate that government has not made public terms of contract agreement for Makanjila, let alone publicized the licence awarding process, neither have open public consultations been held.
The government has to bear in mind that resources including the Makanjila heavy sands belong to the people of Malawi including the impoverished communities in Makanjila and it is an insult to deprive them of information on how their resources are being utilized.
It also has to realize that such hiding of information on mining activities breeds suspicion that there is corruption in the award of licences.
Certainly, these are some of the reasons why donors including the World Bank, European Union and German Technical Cooperation (GIZ) have been on the forefront financing reforms to ensure transparency and accountability in the minerals sector through the Mining Governance and Growth Support Project and the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) process.
In order to score highly on these reforms, we urge government to make public all the information on Makanjila and other mining projects and allow Malawians including communities in mining areas to take part in decision making on the projects.
Malawians have many questions on the Makanjila mine including how much it will contribute to the government’s purse and what the project has in store for the local economy of Makanjila.
Until the government and the investor come out in the open and address Malawians including the impoverished Makanjila communities on the project, suspicion will continue lingering which could result in communities resisting the development of this economically significant mine.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 63 (July 2018).