New Mines law crucial for Malingunde Graphite Project – NCA Study
…Application of revised legislation will tame community expectations
…Government must scale up monitoring activities for the project
By Marcel Chimwala
A study conducted by the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) has recommended that the Government enacts the new Mines and Minerals Bill in order to tame community expectations at Malingunde in Lilongwe where ASX listed resources firm Sovereign Metals is prospecting for flake graphite.
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining a couple of years ago completed national wide consultations on the new Law to replace the outdated Mines and Minerals Act (1981).
However, there have been delays on the part of government to enact the new Law despite repeated promises by the State President and the Ministry responsible to speed up the process for the enactment of the new legislation.
The NCA sponsored study, which was conducted by the Institute for Community Mobilisation and Empowerment (ICOME), laments the delays and calls on civil society organisations and other concerned stakeholders to seriously consider pushing for the finalization of the Mines Law.
This Law which provides for mining companies to sign community development agreements will help tame community expectations and solve almost all the problems that are being experienced at Malingunde and all the other mining projects in the country,
says Country Director for Norwegian Church Aid Havard Hovdhaugen in commenting on the study.
NCA Coordinator for Economic Justice Thokozani Mapemba explains that NCA tasked ICOME to conduct the study in order to bridge the gap which existed between the community members, investor and government officials.
The activity was also aimed at empowering community members to demand their rights and negotiate development projects as part of the Miner’s social responsibility while at the same time allowing the Miner to do its work in compliance with the Laws of Malawi. Much emphasis was also given to exposing the views of the community members on the project being undertaken in their area.
Mapemba explains that Theatre for Development (TFD) was used as a methodology to collect relevant data through research that would be used as evidence during issue verification and facilitate discussions among duty bearers in this case government officials, CSOs, investors and community members, and also facilitate development of action plans.
The action plans came from investors, community members and duty bearers on how they can solve critical problems affecting not only the community but also investors and government as they carry out their duties.
TFD, conducted in T/A Masumbankhunda in the areas of GVH Chitsulo and GVH Ndumila, started with a research to establish root causes for various problems and also background information on the areas, and later a theatrical performance followed.
The performance and discussions unveiled the research findings and verified them with the community.
The performance also facilitated development of action plans and resolution of issues between the community members, the miner and duty bearers.
The research reached out to a total of 243 members of Malingunde community and five authorities including the Sovereign Metals, Lilongwe Water Board which has dams in the area, Friends of Malingunde and the Department of Mines.
Mapemba explains that Community members complained that their lands are being tampered with by the investor without the owner’s concert.
People simply realize that there are metals placed on their land without being properly informed or asked for a permission,
Community members also reported that they are not well informed regarding the levels of the entire mining project.
They, therefore, lack information as to what exactly will be done in the exploration stage, how long it will take, and what will follow if their land is a potential graphite site.
The community members claimed that they got as less as MK60.00 from officials from Department of Lands who were involved in disbursement of funds to community members whose gardens were tampered with when the company was conducting exploration activities.
In one of the meetings, an official from Sovereign Metals, who are the investors, declared that some villagers will be reallocated from their land without further explaining on how they will be relocated, compensated or when they will be relocated. This has created fear among community members and high levels of expectations,
says the Report.
The study also established that due to inadequate sensitization, members of the community have low levels of understanding on how mining operates as such have developed total doubt in the entire process of the exercise.
For instance, it says, Sovereign metals has continuously informed the community that they have not yet been awarded with a mining licence as they are at an exploration stage but the community is skeptical that something fishy is going on citing that the sampling exercise is taking too long.
This has led to high levels of suspicion, speculations and mistrust. It is against this background that community members do not ably patronize mining meetings in the area,
says the Report.
Community suggested mitigation strategies
Mapemba explains that the members of the community suggested a number of solutions to the stated problems including that Sovereign Metals should consider spending time in teaching the community on how a simple mining circle operates in order for the community to understand the process.
The community members also suggested that the sampling process should be stopped until they are well informed on the entire exercise. The people suggested that if they are to be compensated, the money should at least not be peanuts, but the amounts which will be proportional to the value of their lost lands to cope up with present economic life.
Government should make effort to find a place either at Dzalanyama forest, Ncheza or Katete forest for relocation. It should also let the people choose where to be relocated not someone choosing for them, and there should be a grace period after compensation, for them to peacefully get prepared before departure to the new location,
Views from Friends of Malingunde
The study also sought views from ‘Friends of Malingunde’, a grouping that was established in 2016 as a social welfare association for people who originally come from Malingunde area.
The group’s objectives include to help in several social, environmental and health issues concerning the people of Malingunde.
Friends of Malingunde has come in as an interested group on the mining issues because they feel that in one way or the other they will be affected by the Project.
According to the Study Report, there is lack of information about the project as even the community seems to have no concrete knowledge about the mining project.
The group has made effort to meet with various relevant stakeholders on the issue such as the Lilongwe District Council, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, NCA and Sovereign Metals.
Through these meetings, it was established that the investor conducted a number of awareness meetings in the area since the outset of their study in Malingunde. On the contrary, the community seems not to have enough information about the upcoming project,
says the Report.
This information gap prompted Friends of Malingunde to intervene, and the association approached NCA to assist them in capacity building on mining governance and human rights.
The grouping has gathered information on Land Laws, Displacement, Compensation issues from the relevant government departments in order to have deeper understanding on the issues that might affect the Malingunde community.
Friends of Malingunde would like to assist in community mobilization by feeding such information to the community and get feedback from the community to the stakeholders in so doing acting as a bridge between the community and relevant stakeholders.
The group says that there is great need to prepare the community for the negative impacts that will come due to the mining project. Therefore, ‘Friends of Malingunde’ is in need of a proper forum with Sovereign Metals where the community will be informed on the issues of displacement and compensation since people are living in fear and dilemma in their own land,
says the Report.
‘Friends of Malingunde’ further says it expects the Malingunde community to be getting royalties from the proceeds when mining starts.
It says these royalties should be directed to various developments in the area through the Lilongwe District Council, the group claims that companies such as Sovereign Metals do the same in other countries such as Australia where similar projects are taking place.
The other thorny issue that comes out in the report is that of graveyards. Friends of Malingunde says the graveyards should not be tampered with, because according to their culture these are sacred and valuable places that must be reserved.
On Corporate Social Responsibility, the group says an agreement should be made between the community and the mining company and to make it binding, a Memorandum of Understanding has to be signed.
The mining company should take the responsibility of the effects of mining to the Malingunde community. This includes rehabilitating the damaged environment,
says the Report.
Friends of Malingunde also proposes that priority for employment opportunities at the mine, whether skilled or unskilled labor, should be given to the people from the Malingunde area.
Likewise, businesses from the area should be given priority on supply and service contracts at the mine.
We do not want to see Sovereign Metals importing materials, furniture and other items that can be sourced locally,
the group is quoted in the report.
Lilongwe Water Board’s concern
The study also took into account the concerns on the project by Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) which has two dams constructed in Malingunde, namely Kamuzu Dam I with a capacity of 4.5-million cubic meters and Kamuzu Dam II with 19.8-million cubic meters.
Out of these dams, the Board is currently supplying water to around 75% of the City’s 1,100,000 population. Apart from that, the dams provide fish for the community since the locals are allowed to fish.
The Board has been actively conserving the environment in the area by regularly supporting tree planting activities through local structures such as Malingunde Environmental Community Development Organization (MECDO).
Currently, the Board is in the process of rehabilitating and increasing storage capacity of the Kamuzu Dam II to 25 million cubic meters.
The LWB acknowledges the benefits of mining for the economic development of the country. However, since the Graphite project will be taking place in the same Malingunde catchment area, the Board is very concerned about the project’s social and economic impact on the people. According to the Board’s Department of Water Quality and Environmental Management, there are a number of concerns and factors that the mining company should take into consideration before the mining works commence in the area,
says the Report. It explains that LWB will not allow the project to be done within the water reservoir and the buffer zone (a radius of 100 meters) of both dams.
It also says the mining company should come clear on how the waste to be generated from the mine will be properly disposed.
The report says:
The Company should be open on the chemicals that will be used in its processes and it has to be known in advance if there are any negative effects on the water and people. LWB recommends the use of environmental friendly chemicals. It further suggests that the chemicals have to be examined by the Malawi Bureau of Standards before they are put in use.
It also urges Sovereign Metals to come out clearly on how it is going to protect the people from the fumes that will be coming from its mining activities considering that these can be hazardous to people’s health and crops.
Sovereign Metals should be specific on the exact area they will be doing the mining since LWB is only aware about the study map. An agreement has to be signed between the relevant stakeholders on the project and its exit plan so that the water should not be contaminated and the environment is properly rehabilitated,
reads the Report.
While praising Sovereign Metals in producing booklets, brochures and other awareness materials updating the general populace of what is happening at the mining site, the study says there is still information gap more especially on the side of the community members themselves.
It says most community members expressed ignorance of mining procedures including the name of the mineral to be mined.
Community members were so surprised to learn that the government knows what is happening in Malingunde and they are in consent,
reads the Report.
It says the information gap exists partly because only a few chiefs are involved in stakeholder meetings while the majority of other chiefs more especially Village Heads feel sidelined.
The few Chiefs involved also take the blame as they do not take an initiative to disseminate information to their colleagues, which fuels suspicion among the chiefs.
The Report also blames lack of coordination among the community members as one factor fueling the information gap saying members of the community have not organized themselves to have a committee to look into mining issues and represent community members in all issues to do with mining in a transparent manner.
Community members are living in fear because they know that one day they will be asked to move out of their land and they do not know what life will be like out of the land they knew as home. Most of them have even stopped doing developments as they feel it might be useless developing a place they will be moved out.
High levels of expectations are also noticed by the community as they think they will get a lot of money from compensations hence pushing the investors to compensate them as soon as possible.
In order to address the information gap at Malingunde, the Report proposes a change in the methodology used in sensitizing members of the community.
It says community members require a methodology that relates with them so easily taking into consideration their beliefs and level of understanding.
Such methodology should present issues in a chronological order that even a lay man in mining can follow. It is not a hidden fact that people in Malawi are skeptical about mining based on past examples. As such, information dissemination needs to be taken seriously. One example of methodologies that relates and trickle down to a common villager is, Social mobilisation Campaign. Theatre for development could also be ideal,
reads the Report.
It also recommends the use of the vernacular language in sensitization campaigns saying it is always important to use a language that the villagers will understand easily.
The Report says when targeting community members a word of mouth should be used than the printed information because most people in Malawi prefer a word of mouth than the printed information.
Government’s poor monitoring of the project
Mapemba says the information gap has arisen because of government’s poor monitoring of the graphite prospecting project.
He explains that for the mining project to succeed, there is need for the government to embrace the principle of “free, prior and informed consent,” and ensure that the members of the community in Malingunde are involved in every step of the project.
As a key partner and beneficiary of the mining project, the government does not have to leave all the responsibility of the project including sensitization activities in the hands of the investor. It has to be actively involved in every stage,
He also stresses on the need to continue with action research and theatre for development in the area to bring on table government officials, Sovereign Metals and the community so that dialogue that will eventually clear out all the fears and inform the community on the project continues.
Moreover, through theatre for development, the community will challenge government and Sovereign Metals to commit to commitments which the community will demand including issues of relocation, compensation procedures and other relevant issues. The community will therefore have assurance that their welfare is safe at the same time government and Sovereign Metals will be put to task to provide assurance that they will commit to community demands by signing a legally binding community development agreement,
Sovereign Metals feasibility study
Sovereign Metals is currently conducting a number of technical studies, which will culminate in a feasibility study, to determine the financial viability of developing a mine at Malingunde.
An economic scoping study for the Project was completed in mid-2017.
The results of this study demonstrate that the Project has the potential to be developed as a low capital and operating cost operation, with annual graphite concentrate production of approximately 44,000 tonnes over an initial life-of-mine (LOM) of 17 years. Sovereign is now moving into the next phase of Project development activities, with an aim to bringing the Project into construction in 2019.
One of the technical studies that is required as part of the feasibility study is an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA), which is already underway, and is taking into account all the issues being raised by stakeholders.
Specialist studies will be undertaken as part of the ESIA to determine potential impacts. Discussions will be held with stakeholders specifically relevant to the water resource in close proximity of the project area,
says Sovereign Metals Country Manager, Andries Kruger in responding to how the mining project will take into account the near-by dams.
He says stakeholder engagement is planned for the Scoping and ESIA phases of the project and as part of certain specialist assessments, consultation with stakeholders will also be undertaken.
Kruger explains that a logistics study and a cultural heritage impact assessment will be conducted as part of the ESIA and all potential impacts in the project area and along proposed access roads will be assessed.
He says the project will not relocate all Malingunde members of the community because the project area may change and will likely become smaller as the findings of various specialist studies will assist in informing the location of the proposed infrastructure hinting that as the ESIA process progresses, more detailed information will be provided.
He also explains that the company is developing a rehabilitation and closure plan which will be submitted to the Environmental Affairs Department with the ESIA report.
We will consider progressive rehabilitation, as well as end land uses upon closure,
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 63 (July 2018).
The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.