Malawi Govt. lauds strides in formalising ASM operations
By Deborah Manda
Government says it is making strides in its quest to formalise Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) operations so that they adequately contribute to the country’s economy.
Director of Geological Survey Department Jalf Salima told Mining & Trade Review upon his return from an Inter-Governmental Forum (IGF) on ASMs in Geneva, Switzerland that despite some difficulties that the Malawi government is experiencing in managing ASM activities, at the meeting Malawi was one of the shining examples of countries that are progressing in formalising the activities.
The meeting’s theme was “Managing Artisanal and Small Scale Mining” and Salima told the delegates that Malawi has already developed a draft ASM policy, which is a guideline to manage ASM activities.
The draft policy, which the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining has developed with funding from the World Bank and European Union under the auspices of the Mining Governance and Growth Support Project, is currently being scrutinized by government officials before its adoption.
In the draft policy unveiled in March 2013, the government says it recognizes the contribution of the ASM subsector to the economy which includes the discovery of mineral occurrences, mineral production, creation of employment and generation in the rural communities.
Salima said in view of this, the government is committed to support the subsector by facilitating the transformation of the ASM activities into more organized and modernized mining practices, and further promote modalities of mineral marketing which encourage transparent business transactions and discourage smuggling.
Malawi will integrate the knowledge gained at the IGF to integrate informal ASM activities into the legal, formal economic systems and reduce the social and environmental impacts of ASM,
He said the government is also formalizing ASMs by encouraging them to obtain Non-Exclusive Exploration Licences (NEPL) and Mining claims for them to operate legally.
We are also facilitating the formation of mining cooperatives to enable them access technical services and financing as groups rather than individuals. There is also a provision of training in basic geology, mining, mineral processing and marketing done jointly with other organizations such as Technical Entrepreneur Vocational Education and Training (TEVET) and Ministry of Trade,
He said that the Ministry is also promoting legal marketing of minerals and local value addition besides monitoring ASM activities to ensure that they are operating according to basic health and safety standards and following environmental regulations.
He said that at the IGF meeting, Malawi gained some knowledge and experience through presentations, panel discussions, plenary, and sharing experience with participants on how to manage ASM, which they will put to use.
The Guidance to Governments on managing ASM document was discussed and shared, its content will complement the ASM Policy being drafted by the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining in coming up with an ASM implementation strategy for Malawi,
But he said although government is progressing in managing ASM, there are a lot of challenges just like in many other countries as ASM is a poverty driven activity.
Many people are engaged in ASM to sustain their livelihoods and this usually follows crop failure or is practised due to unemployment or the desire to supplement household income.
Most ASM are informal thus they operate without licences and they lack basic geological knowledge that can help them in prospecting and mining which leads to destruction of the environment,
Salima also bemoaned the ASMs use of rudimentary methods of mining which results in low production and poor quality products since the small-scale miners cannot purchase proper equipment for mining to produce high quality minerals.
With lack of capital to invest in exploration, equipment and mining, banks are reluctant to provide loans to ASMs hence they fail to process minerals and, therefore, most of them sell rough minerals usually at low prices which leads to illegal trading of mineral products,
There is also the challenge of conflict with land owners and large scale exploration and mining companies as ASM say that large scale companies encroach in their territory.
Chikomeni Manda a Small Scale Miner from Mzimba who also attended the IGF said that the meeting emphasized on ASM formalization and financing as a lot of ASMs operate without proper documents and if they could be formalized it will help to boost government revenue in form of taxes.
About 1% of ASMs are licensed while the rest are operating illegally. If they could be formalized it will help the government to have reliable data on how much we are extracting and exporting,
He also added that if ASMs are formalized it can be easier to acquire good technology and loans from financial institutions through associations and cooperatives.
The Intergovernmental Forum is an interactive meeting that gathers representatives from members and observer member governments, mining companies, industry associations and civil society and academia to discuss the linkages and interaction between artisanal and small scale mining and Development.
The IGF, Minerals, Metals and sustainable Development 13th Annual General Meeting focused on Guidance to Governments on managing ASMs and was attended by delegates from over 60 countries across the globe.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 58 (February 2018).
The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.