This week, Paramount Chief Kyungu for Karonga District, northern Malawi, criticised the Government of Malawi for awarding licences to mining companies without consulting communities, “the owners of the land”. Kyungu was incensed by the government’s decision to give a Chinese company, Hainan International Resources Group, a license to explore for minerals, including limonite and rutile, in the district.
Last week, George Maneya (see his MSc thesis on coal geology and EIA of Mchenga Coal Mine, Malawi, 2012) a representative of the company, told Kyungu and community members that mapping would start immediately. The chief exclaimed
We are not fools that you [Hainan International Resources Group] have to take us for granted by just coming into our land without informing us on exactly what you are going to do and surprisingly you are saying members of the community should not be worried when they see these people in their homes when doing their mapping. How do you think the community will act on the activities in their land without being informed.
Yes we know that we need investors in our country but you [Government of Malawi] should consider people’s lives. The communities around the mine should be civic educated on the minerals the miners are going to explore so that they should not have bad perception on the mining.
The area you [Maneya] are mentioning is within my land and I will not allow that until communities are well-informed and educated about the minerals.
Hainan International Resources Group was established in January 2010, with the approval of the Hainan Provincial Government, restructured from former Jindi Industry Company. It is a joint investment of the Geological Bureau of Hainan Province (controlling shareholder), Hainan Haigang Group Company and China-Africa Development Fund. At present, very little information is available online.
In July, Kyungu also defended the rights of communities that surround Malawi’s largest mining project, Kayelekera uranium mine. This mine is also in Karonga and it is wholly owned by Paladin Africa Limited (the Malawian government has a 15% stake in this company), a subsidiary of the Australian company Paladin Energy Limited. During Malawi’s president’s 5-day tour of the north of the country, Kyungu asked the president to ensure mining activities benefit communities,
These mining companies can inject part of the proceeds from their mining activities towards raising the standards and capacity of the health facility.
Communities in Ntcheu District in central Malawi also made the news this week over concerns that they do not see the benefits of rubies and sapphires mined at Chimwadzulu mine that has been in operation for over 50 years. The mine is being operated by Nyala Mines, a UK-based company, which has a 60 percent stake in the project. The government holds a 10 percent stake in the mine project and 30 percent has been allocated to local stakeholders.
Managing Director, Abdul Mahomed, said that precious stones are not being sold at present because Nyala Mines is putting in place systems and operations to make sure the mine is profitable and stones are correctly tested. The Canadian Columbia Gem House has an exclusive agreement with the mine to sort and cut stones.
During a visit to the mine, Traditional Authority Mpando expressed his worries about the absence of benefits of the mine for local communities. Mahomed explained that the mining company is supporting a local school. However, this probably falls short of community expectations.
This ruby and sapphire mine along with the Kayelekera uranium project has recently been studied by researcher Paul Kamlongera, funded by the British Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. His research shows that mining might not necessarily translate into benefits for affected communities.
Kamlongera explored how the benefits of mining are maximised in Malawi and how the social costs can be minimised for communities. We will not summarise the paper here, but highly recommend reading “The mining boom in Malawi: implications for community development” (Community Development Journal 2013, 48(3), ungated) to learn more about community and civil society interactions with Chimwadzulu and Kayelekera mines. Kamlongera concludes that
Given the inadequacies of mining regulations, greater participation from civil society actors and the communities themselves in decisions pertaining to mine development is a key to effective community development in emerging mineral economies such as Malawi.
Kamlongera’s conclusions are well-timed following the evident lack of sustained dialogue between actors in Malawi’s mining sector. They need to be taken on board in addressing the ongoing dispute between communities and Spring Stone over its exploration activities for rare earth elements in Mulanje, southern Malawi, and participation of communities is paramount in resolving the contentious disagreement over Lake Malawi’s border with Tanzania. It was thus a welcome development that the Ministry of Mining led stakeholders from non-governmental organisations and the media this past week through a capacity building workshop in mineral sector issues.