Malawi’s Ministry of Mining to decentralise amid calls by civil society

Centralised Urbanisation vs Decentralised Urbanisation (Courtesy of SCDP)

Centralised Urbanisation vs Decentralised Urbanisation (Courtesy of SCDP)

Malawi’s Minister of Mining John Bande, who survived the cabinet shuffle a month ago, announced this weekend that the ministry plans to decentralise to ensure better management of the mining sector.

According to reporting by The Nation, the purpose of the decentralisation is to

[...] ensure that companies adhere to corporate social responsibility, treat workers with dignity and pay royalties.

The officers [sic] will help formalise the sector. We want the mining industry to benefit the country, so we will ensure that we have expertise on the ground to monitor the mines and be able to stop malpractices.

Through the offices we will also be able to train small scale miners on safe practices to ensure that the environment is protected. We will introduce modern technologies to them to boost the industry.

Bande explained the current status of efforts to decentralise the ministry

We have already submitted a proposal to the Human Resources department. Once it is approved we will open offices at district level. [...]

However, we will start with potential areas, so our priorities are in the Northern Region and lower Shire where mining is booming.

The Karonga Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) welcomes this move to decentralise as an effort to improve conditions for communities and workers. CCJP in Karonga has provided a voice for the communities around Malawi’s largest mine, Kayelekera uranium mine, run by Paladin Africa Limited.

In October 2013, the CCJP released a press statement in support of Paramount Chief Kyungu’s remarks that Paladin should not be allowed to mine in new areas it has been exploring unless a Memorandum of Understanding is signed between Paladin and the community. In the press statement, signed by Mwawi Shaba Diocesan Justice and Peace Desk Officer for Karonga Diocese, CCJP appealed to government

to institute grievance handling structures at District level with power and mandate to handle grievances from communities. The District Commissioners, while willing, fail to adequately handle concerns from communities as the Ministry of Mines has not devolved to the District Councils.

Meanwhile, the District Commissioners continue to receive numerous complaints from communities which are
mostly referred to headquarters with limited chance of action from above

Therefore, in response to Bande announcement, Shaba highlighted the potential of these district offices,

Currently, we have a very big problem when it comes to making complaints. There are no offices in districts so people’s concerns do not get to authorities. The district councils do not have powers over mining so there is need to have the offices otherwise exploitation will always be a problem.

This week, CCJP also called for an impact assessment of water sources around the uranium mine over health concerns among nearby communities.

We hope the decentralisation may also improve the ease of doing business for investors especially in light of the fall in Malawi’s position in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 index. This year Malawi is 171 out of 189 countries, down 10 places from 161 in 2013. Lessons must be learnt from the activities of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in the national decentralisation process.

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