Malawi’s First Alternative Mining Indaba/Communities cry for inclusiveness in mining ventures – Mining Review (December 2014)

At the end of November, Malawi held its first Alternative Mining Indaba. This brought together a variety of stakeholders around the themes of inclusiveness, transparency and accountability in the mining sector.

The draft programme can be viewed here: 2014-11 Alternative Mining Indaba Programme.

Lawrence Ching’oma (@law_cee) who works at the Norwegian Church Aid tweeted throughout the event, joined by a few tweets from

Carol Kiangura, Publish What You Pay East and Southern Africa Coordinator, also attended and tweeted, @Ckiangu.

The piece “Communities cry for inclusiveness in mining ventures” featured below was initially published in Malawi’s Mining Review Issue Number 20 2014 that was circulated in December 2014. This is the final edition for 2014. This article provides more in-depth coverage of the Alternative Mining Indaba.

The full edition can be read here: Mining Review No. 20 December 2014

To learn more about this quarterly publication, edited by Marcel Chimwala, read the post about the “Voice of the mineral sector in Malawi”.

Images from Mining Review (Issue No. 20, December 2014, Marcel Chimwala)

Images from Mining Review (Issue No. 20, December 2014, Marcel Chimwala) Click to enlarge.

Communities cry for inclusiveness in mining ventures

The event was big, the crowd huge, the voices many but the cry was the same: “Strange people just come to our areas to search for minerals without consulting us, the owners of the resources!”

This cry was conspicuous in the voices of rural communities who gathered at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe where civil society organisations conducted a three day national alternative mining indaba starting from November 25 to 27 with the theme; achieving inclusiveness, transparency and accountability in the mining sector for sustainable development.

With funding from Tilitonse Fund, the NGOs that organized the Indaba included the Norwegian Church Aid, Actionaid, Centre for Environment and Policy (CEPA) and Citizens for Justice.

An interesting case was presented by Traditional Authority Mabulabo of Mzimba whose area hosts the Kanyika Niobium Project owned by Australia’s Globe Metals & Mining who lamented that though discussions for a development agreement for the Kanyika Project are underway between the government and the miner, the Kanyika Community has not been invited to take part in the negotiations.

Mwabulabo also complained that the government never consulted the Kanyika community when it approved the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report that Globe completed for the Project, which is poised to start producing niobium, tantalum and zircon.

We want the government to remove secrecy when handling issues involving exploitation of the country’s natural resources. They have to know that these are non-renewable resources, so when they are depleted, they are gone and will never come back hence both our generation and future generations lose out,

said Mwabulabo.

He reported that in the case of Kanyika, despite the government seemingly lacking interest in community engagement on the project, Globe showed its commitment to involve the communities by carrying out periodic meetings in the early stages of exploration work which commenced in 2008.

T/A Mwabulabo explained that in these early exchanges, there were arrangements to resettle 43 families that reside within the project area to pave way for mining activities but up to now, the community has been kept in the dark on when they will be relocated and about their resettlement package.

This is a human rights issue that the government has to consider. How can one pursue development plans while living in such suspense over resettlement?

He questioned.

The Kanyika story is a case in point in exposing the information gaps that are there between the government and local communities on mining ventures.

It is, therefore, against this background that the Tilitonse Fund came into being as a multi-donor pooled grant-making facility for Malawian based civil society organizations supporting more accountable, responsive and inclusive governance in the minerals sector.

Tilitonse, which is in line with the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy, has funded three Malawian civil society organizations Norwegian Church Aid, Action Aid and Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA) in a project to promote inclusiveness, transparency and accountability in the mining sector over a two year period.

The Norwegian Church Aid told the gathering at the Indaba that under the backing of Tilitonse, it is implementing a project called Tonse Tipindule to promote increased inclusions, accountability and responsiveness in Malawi’s minerals sector.

The main goal of the project is to contribute to improved social inclusion, accountability and responsiveness among duty bearers in Malawi through strengthened citzens’ voice. The project seeks to improve citzen participation and positive engagement between civil society groups, citzens, mining investors and government,

said Norwegian Church Aid Country Representative Oddbjorn Flem.

Norwegian Church Aid is implementing the Tonse Tipindule Project in 10 districts of Mulanje, Phalombe, Mwanza, Balaka, Ntcheu, Mangochi, Dowa, Karonga, Mzimba and Chitipa.

Tonse Tipindule Project has the following results areas: Policy, institutional and legal framework reforms initiated in the mining sector and a comprehensive stakeholder engagement framework established at community level.

In pursuing these initiatives, the Project mobilizes civil society organizations and traditional leaders in the affected communities and supports them to effectively engage mining companies and government regarding community benefits and participation in mining projects.

Action Aid is another non-governmental organisation (NGO) that stressed on the importance of promoting inclusiveness, transparency and accountability to the participants at the indaba. The NGO said it is promoting this vision through a project in Responsive Mining Governance for Equitable and Sustainable Development of Malawi.

The main goal of this project is promoting transparency and accountability in the extractive sector for equitable and sustainable development. The project seeks to enhance improved collective action among CSO actors and communities for effective advocacy on accountability and transparency in the extractive industry in Malawi.

The Action Aid project is being implemented in Karonga, Mzimba and Phalombe Districts and its result areas include improved collective action among CSOs to pursue advocacy on mining issues, increased technical capacity on member civil society organizations on issues of mining, increased capacity and voice of the poor communities especially women to influence decisions on issues of mining at community level.

With funding from Tilitonse, CEPA informed the indaba that it is implementing a two-year project on strengthening mining governance in Malawi.

It explained that the project’s overall goal is that governance in the mining sector in Malawi is more inclusive and accountable with the purpose of engagement of CSOs, private sector and citizens in mining policy processes.

To achieve the goal, the project has three major outputs which include; review of policy and institutional framework for regulating the mining sector influenced by CSOs, increased cohesion of CSOs in policy advocacy on mining, and increased public understanding of mining issues.

Norwegian Church Aid, Action Aid and CEPA told the Indaba that they came up with these projects after commissioning a joint baseline study on Malawi’s mining sector that revealed lack of community inclusiveness, transparency and accountability on exploration and mining projects.

The study found out that in most cases, the local communities were never involved or involvement was limited to a few individuals who were in most cases traditional leaders,

said the three NGOs in the study report presented at the Indaba.

Mining in Malawi comment: This joint baseline study is available here 2014-03 Joint Basline Study on Malawi’s Mining Sector (Norwegian Church Aid, ActionAid, Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy)

In response to the complaints of the participants, Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining admitted that there are flaws in the administration of the mining sector in Malawi which has prompted the government to start implementing necessary reforms, which include reviewing relevant legislation such as the Mines and Minerals Act (1981) and the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act 1983.

He said the government is also taking steps in reviewing and strengthening the mining sector fiscal regime, enhancing accountability and transparency in the mining sector, and improving the ease of doing business.

The Malawi Government realizes that the mining can only contribute to socio-economic development of the country if it is done in a sustainable manner,

said Muluzi.

He said the Malawi Government is committed to ensuring that the mining sector develops sustainably by taking into account prevailing best practices, which enables Malawians to realize optimal benefits.

This is why my Ministry has been reviewing the mining legislation to address the deficiencies that have been seen to impede development of the sector and align it with aspirations of Malawians. The review started with the development of the Mines and Minerals Policy, which was approved and launched in April 2013.

He said in order to take care of the information gaps existing on mining issues, the Government is currently developing a national public outreach and communication strategy for stakeholder dialogue on mining matters.

In addition to this, Government has all along been engaging CSOs, among other stakeholders, in the development of mining policies and review of legislation.

Muluzi said:

Over and above, my Ministry recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Civil Society Organisations through the CSOs Tilitonse Programme in an effort to foster a good working relationship in the sustainable mineral development in Malawi.

This is an encouraging development that needs to be sustained if the country is to realize the colourful dream of diversifying its economic base from agriculture and also nationally making a historical paradigm shift from agro-based to mineral based economy.

We attach great importance to consultations and collaboration with stakeholders such as civil society organizations and it is our hope and expectation that we will mutually endevour to deepen our constructive engagement to build the sector for the benefit of all Malawians.

The Minister, who officially opened the Indaba, also said the Government is making progress in its steps to join the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) following the pronouncement by the Head of State Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika through his first State of the Nation Address that “Malawi should improve on revenue management transparency and accountability through the EITI process.”

Muluzi explained that the Government is committed to the EITI process because it realizes how significant the issues of transparency and accountability in the administration of mineral rights and utilization of royalties and fees from the minerals sector are.

In this connection, I wish to urge all the CSOs and other organizations that advocate on mining issues to utilize resources at their disposal in building the nascent mineral sector as opposed to fanning sentiments of antipathy and hostility towards the sector,

said Muluzi.

He also thanked the NGOs for their steadfast support towards the development of the mineral sector in Malawi through the Tlitonse Fund.

Mining is a young sector, its challenges are enormous, and therefore we will continue to count on your support to realize the full potential of this most promising sector,

said Muluzi.

Certainly, realizing the full potential of the sector will remain a pipe dream for Malawi if the cries of the mining communities, whose voices were audible at this first National Alternative Mining Indaba for Malawi as being at risk of labour exploitation, health issues and environmental hazards associated with unsustainable mining practices, are not taken into account.

One response to “Malawi’s First Alternative Mining Indaba/Communities cry for inclusiveness in mining ventures – Mining Review (December 2014)

  1. Pingback: Event: Malawi’s Second National Alternative Mining Indaba (Lilongwe, 2-3 February 2016) | Mining in Malawi·

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