By Deborah Manda
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka has vowed to push for the formalization of artisanal and small scale miners (ASM) operations in order to ensure poverty alleviation for the miners and more revenue to government through collection of adequate taxes.
He was speaking in Mzimba where he visited the Mzimba Gemstone Mining cooperative.
It is sad that gemstone mining has been taking place here for over 40 years but the miners are still poor. I was hoping to find people whose lives have been transformed in the 40 years that have passed,
He said the government is doing all it can to ensure that the lives of ASMs are uplifted noting that a draft ASM policy has been developed and the Mines and Minerals Bill has also been drafted with both documents embracing clauses to formalize the ASM sector and ensure a proper market for the miners.
Most Malawian ASMs are duped by middlemen who buy the stones at unrealistically low prices and sell them at a whooping profit in foreign gemstone markets.
I know that we do not have an established market for gemstones, where there is transparency, here in Malawi. In that way, government is also losing millions of dollars in form of taxes. We are working to sort out these problems through the adoption of the ASM policy and the new Mines Law which, among other issues, seeks to formalize the ASM sector for it to contribute to poverty alleviation and economic development,
He described the current situation where by small scale miners are not substantially benefitting from their stones because they are just giving away the products to foreigners at a cheaper price as alarming.
Msaka also urged financial institutions to support the ASM sector by providing loans to ASM cooperatives to procure advanced equipment for their operations.
Mechanisation of ASM operations is an important step that we should take now. I ask banks not to leave this task to the government only. They should come in and give loans to you people to modernize your operations,
Chairperson for Mzimba Gemstone Cooperative Jerrifton Gama agreed with Msaka that government has to intervene to ensure proper marketing of gemstones.
Government has to regulate the market to ensure that we do not sell our gems at cheaper prices,
He also urged government, donors and the cooperate world to provide the ASM cooperatives with advanced equipment such as mini-excavators because the use of primitive equipment like hand-held hoes is making their work tough.
Secretary General for Gemstone Association of Malawi Ian Petros Mbewe asked the government to continue providing training opportunities to ASMs on areas such as gemology and marketing skills in order for the subsector to move to greater heights.
The piece “Msaka pushes for sanity in Malawi’s ASM sector” featured above was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 41 that is circulating this September 2016.
The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.