Malawi’s New Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Bintony Kutsaira – June 2019

A new cabinet has been formed following the 2019 tripartite elections. The two main opposition parties are contesting the results and demonstrations took place with more promised over the conduct of the Malawi Electoral Commission and the results.

The new Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining is Hon Bintony Kutsaira (Lilongwe Msinja North) MP and the Deputy Minister is Hon Mungasulwa Mwambande MP (Karonga North). Kutsaira and Mwambande follow in the footsteps of Hon Aggrey Masi MP and Hon Werani Chilenga MP, who were minister and deputy minister in the previous cabinet.

Bintony Kutsaira Malawi Minister of NREM

Bintony Kutsaira, Malawi’s new Minister of Natural Resources Energy and Mining, Photo Credit: Official Malawi Government Online Facebook Page, 20 April 2019

Kutsaira first joined the Democratic Progressive Party in 2005, crossing the floor from the Malawi Congress Party, the ticket he was elected on.  In 2012, former president Bingu wa Mutharika appointed Kutsaira head of the National Intelligence Service. After wa Mutharika died in office in April 2012, Kutsaira rejoined the Malawi Congress Party in 2013 but did not stay long after he lost in the primaries for Lilongwe Msinja. He joined the People’s Party and was appointed Deputy Minister of Agriculture in January 2014. You can see him in action as deputy minister in the video below. Kutsaira rejoined DPP and mostly recently served as governor for the Central Region in the DPP, a position he also held during late wa Mutharika’s presidency.

Deputy Minister Mwambande is a businessman from Karonga, the district home to Kayelekera uranium mine.

This is what I had to say about the DPP’s manifesto commitments on mining before the elections:

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) 2019 Manifesto ‘Sustaining a people-centred government’, is built on the pillars of patriotism, integrity and hard work. The manifesto promises

The DPP government will embark on extensive but cautious mining and utilisation of our oil resources, now that the legal and institutional frameworks have been developed.

The DPP government will embark on mining for rare earth metals (tantalum, zircon and nobium) in Kanyika Hills in Mzimba, Songwe Hills in Phalombe, Makanjira in Mangochi, and Kanga Nkude in Balaka. We will develop mines for graphite in Malingunde in Lilongwe and Ilomba in Chitipa. We will mine ruby in Chimwazulu in Ntcheu and bauxite in Mulanje.

The DPP government will also begin extensive exploitation of our oil resources now that the legal and institutional frameworks have been developed.

I expect it was not the intention to confuse the public, but here it sounds as if the government will lead exploration and production of all sorts of minerals. Rather, simplistically put, the current arrangement in Malawi is that private companies are awarded licences by the government to carry out exploration and production. In return, the government collects royalties and taxes. Yes, sometimes, the government gets free carried equity (i.e. a stake it doesn’t have to pay for in a subsidiary of a company carrying out mining, or in the case of Kayelekera, in exchange for some tax breaks) but this does not mean the government or its officials are actually mining.

Take, for example, the rare earths projects that the ‘DPP government will embark on’. In fact, these exploration projects are being carried out by Australian-listed company Globe Metals & Mining in Kanyika, Mzimba, and Mkango Resources in Songwe Hill, Phalombe.

The last few years has indeed seen progress in legislative reform – a new Mines and Minerals Act (2018) and a National Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Policy (2018) – and Malawi joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which was a promise made in the Democratic Progressive Party’s previous manifesto, but why no continuity between the promises then and now?

It is also a little misleading to say that ‘The DPP government will also begin extensive exploitation of our oil resources’ when the companies with licences are still in the exploration stage. As of yet, as far as I am aware, no economic reserves of petroleum have been proven, and until they are, we cannot talk of ‘exploitation’. And unless something changes dramatically in our legal framework and with contracts already signed, it will not be the government exploiting reserves, but companies.

What will change in the mining sector if the Democratic Progressive Party are reelected? In short, it’s not clear. We probably can presume things will continue as they have been, which includes implementing the new Act, unless the government really intends to start mining and exploring itself.

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