By Gloria Mbwana
Chinese firm MAWEI Mining says it has planned to start mining at its Makanjira Heavy Mineral Sands project in Mangochi in late 2019 or early 2020 once energy and transport issues are sorted out.
Senior Advisor for MAWEI Charles Kaphwiyo explains in his presentation made at the launch of 2016/16 Malawi Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (MWEITI) report that the company is ready to invest US$38.8-million in the first phase of the mining venture to run for one to 10-years years.
In these first ten years, it will be mining 10mt of ore per year producing Ilmenite ; 215,793 tonnes , Magnetite; 63,600 tonnes, Zirconite; 8300 tonnes and Rutile; 1,100 tonnes.
Kaphwiyo explains that the project will rake in US$29.2Million in annual revenue with a profit of US$5.4Million.
MAWEI started exploration at the site in 2009 and completed feasibility studies in 2017.
The studies confirmed the availability of over 354 million tonnes ore containing Ilmenite; 9.48mt, magnetite; 1.648mt, Zirconite; 0.358mt, Rutile; 0,04mt and monazite 0.017mt.
The Malawi Government granted the company a mining lience in November 2017.
In his presentation, Kaphwiyo pegs Makanjira Heavy Sands mine life at 23.6-years.
This project will be beneficial to local Malawians as it intends to provide more than 230 jobs,
He, however, says there some challenges to kick-start the project including lack of power as it will require 3MW to roll out the first phase and 10MW for the rest of the mine life.
The other critical requirement for the project is to operationalize lake transport services from Makanjira to Chipoka to connect to the railway to Nacala for exporting.
Discussions are underway with the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) for the energy, Mota Engil for the lake services and Central East African Railways for the railway transport.
Once these issues are resolved, we will start mine construction which will take seven to 10 months.
Government has been under fire from civil society organisations for its secrecy in handling the Makanjira mining issue.
Chairperson of the Natural Resource Justice Network (NRJN) Kossam Munthali was quoted in Mining & Trade Review July edition as saying that the civil society is concerned that government has not made public terms of contract agreement with MAWEI, let alone publicised the licence awarding process, neither has open public consultations been held.
He said it is disheartening to note that despite all the advocacy and donor funded projects aimed at reforming the management of the mining sector, threat of vice still exists due to these secret dealings.
This behavior lead us to question the motive behind resistance to reforms by government officials handling these issues. Why do they want the status quo to remain despite all the donor-funded training, advocacy and pleading efforts to promote transparency that have been exhausted? Your guess may be as good as mine, which is really very unfortunate,
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 67 (November 2018). This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.