Malawi commences field surveys for geological mapping project
…GEMMAP to maximize contribution of mining to socio-economic growth
…Project in tandem with French policy to support mineral resource development in Africa
By Marcel Chimwala
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining has kick-started field surveys for the geological mapping and mineral assessment project (GEMMAP), which will, among other things, produce new maps depicting the mineral potential of the country.
The Ministry, which is implementing the project through the Geological Survey Department (GSD) and Department of Mines, contracted a consortium of the Geological Survey of France (BRGM), Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) and Council for Geosciences South Africa (CGS) of South Africa to provide technical assistance to the 10.8-million Euros project, which is being financed by the French Government.
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Honourable Bright Msaka SC, who officially launched the project on June 15 last year, says the implementation of GEMMAP is consistent with the Government of Malawi’s development blueprint, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II and Mines and Minerals Policy document of February 2013, the main aim of which is to maximize the mining sector’s contribution to the country’s sustainable socio-economic growth.
The investigations under GEMMAP will identify the type of rocks, the minerals hosted by the rocks, the quality and the quantities of the minerals in the ground. This type of data will assist to guide investors in making informed decisions in the selection of exploration targets,
French Ambassador to Zimbabwe and Malawi, Laurent Delahousse, says the move by the French government to finance GEMMAP is consistent with French cooperation policy in the mining sector in Africa aimed at helping African countries to acquire and manage geological information by updating and refreshing national geological data.
The policy is set out in the strategic guidance document entitled “Resources minereles et Development en Afrique (Mineral Resources and Development in Africa),
The main objective of GEMMAP is to support the Geological Survey Department and the mining sector by advancing geological knowledge and capacity building.
The project has six components which are geological mapping, mineral resource potential mapping, natural risks (geo-hazards) mapping, support to small scale mining, procurement of laboratory equipment, and construction of a documentation centre at GSD, and capacity building.
The project will also conduct ground truthing of the anomalies that were identified by the recent countrywide high resolution airborne geophysical survey code-named KAUNIUNI,
He says the knowledge of the mineral potential of Malawi to be acquired through GEMMAP is very relevant for his ministry when awarding exploration and mining licenses and when negotiating mining development agreements with investors because it will assist the ministry to have prior knowledge of the mineral resources of the country instead of just depending on what the investors are reporting.
Secretary for Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Patrick Matanda, says a team of geoscientists from the GSD and the technical consortium commenced the surveys on April 24, 2017 with Nsanje and Chikwawa in the Southern Region as starting points.
The field investigations involve mapping of geological units, collection of soil, sediment and rock samples for laboratory analysis, collection of data on mining activities in the areas visited and mapping of geo-hazards.
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining is, therefore, appealing to the general public to take note of the commencement of the field mapping and render their support for the success of the project,
Director for GSD, Jalf Salima, says the project has come at an opportune time for Malawi as systematic geological mapping of Malawi was done in the 1950s to 1960s, which is a long time ago.
Salima says he is optimistic that the survey will yield positive results because there are many known mineral occurrences in neighbouring countries whose geological environments extend into Malawi but little is known in Malawi.
He explains that the project will apply advanced geosciences technologies which will lead to better understanding of earth forming processes and mineralization.
Such advanced technologies to be used in the project such as remote sensing, geographic information systems and analytical equipment will help us acquire and archive high quality data in formats compatible with current data exchange systems.
We need up to date quality data to attract investors and develop the mineral sector as a tool for socio-economic transformation.
The geological mapping component of GEMMAP will involve systematic mapping of the geology of Malawi, doing field observations and collecting samples for petrographic, geo-chemical and geo-chronological studies.
Deliverables shall include updated geological maps at scales of 1:1,000,000(1 map); 1:250,000 (10 maps) and 1:100,000(40maps) and accompanying reports,
Under the mineral resources potential mapping component, the project will undertake an inventory of the mineral resources of the country to produce updated mineral resources and occurrence maps.
Data will be derived from geological observations, geophysical data, geochemical data, mineral indicators and visits to old mines and operating mines,
As part of the third component dubbed natural risks mapping, the project will involve the mapping of geo-hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, flood zones and rockfalls to produce documents and maps showing geo-hazard prone areas.
The data produced will support the implementation of the country development plans and natural risk prevention policies,
The support to artisanal and small scale mining component of the project will make an assessment of the minerals and mining methods currently in use by small-scale miners and make appropriate recommendations.
Previous surveys indicated that Malawi is host to deposits of various minerals including rare earth elements, graphite, uranium, niobium, heavy mineral sands, bauxite, coal, limestone, dimension stones, iron sulphide, vermiculite, nickel, gold, gemstones, platinum group metals and copper.
The country has also high prospects for the discovery of oil and gas in its portion of the African Great Rift System which encompasses Lake Malawi and the Shire Valley area.
GEMMAP shall provide geo-scientific data that shall add to a new understanding of the geology and mineral occurrences of Malawi,
Salima explains that the geoscientific data from GEMMAP will also be useful in designing of infrastructure, natural risk mapping and mitigation, ground water exploration, land use planning and general research in various fields.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 49 (May 2017).