Spring Stone Limited has finished exploration work for rare earth elements (REE) in Chambe Basin, in southern Malawi’s Mulanje District. Surrounding communities, led by Mulanje Pasani legislator Peter Nowa and comedian Bon Kalindo, have been protesting the activities for almost a year on the grounds that local residents were not consulted and have made allegations that the company has damaged the environment around the site. Mulanje Mountain Biosphere Reserve remains on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list following the submission made by the Government of Malawi earlier this year.
In May 2013, Spring Stone was able to resume exploration activities for REE in Chambe Basin, following the discharging of a court injunction that had halted their activities. The injunction had been taken out by a group identified as “Concerned Citizens”, led by Nowa and Kalindo. Communities remained disgruntled after this effort to stop activities failed. Thus, two months later in July 2013, close to 500 citizens (although other sources have not confirmed this number) marched from Chitakale Trading Centre to Mulanje Township to protest the company’s activities and present a petition to District Commissioner Jack Ngulube.
Their petition gave the company seven days, subsequently extended by five days, to cease activities. This ultimatum was not observed by the company or District Council. Kalindo, the “mouthpiece” for the group of citizens, claimed they would use “traditional” methods to force the company to leave. He has made this threat on several occasions.
For example, in June 2013, at the launch of a report on revenue (loss) in Malawi’s mining sector, Kalindo suggested that citizens could bewitch investors. He explained,
If we don’t iron out these things we will be cursed. We can use traditional means to resolve, to bewitch investors. We don’t want to do this because these minerals can benefit Malawi.
Kalindo interpreted the reports that Spring Stone moved its equipment to explore other areas in Malawi as a result of these so-called “traditional ways”. Kalindo told The Daily Times,
The citizens have spoken. The miner has finally left the mountain with all their equipment. Even if you go there, you won’t find any of their equipment in the mountain.
We warned them that we are the people of Mulanje and should anyone stretch us beyond our limit, we could use our ‘traditional’ ways of chasing them away.
They used a lot of money to plant those pieces of equipment in the mountain and you should be asking how came they have dismantled it and gone away; that’s ‘traditional’ option at play.
Spring Stone, the joint venture company between Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC 67%) and Gold Canyon Resources Inc (33%), is currently processing data collected during exploration activities including conducting an economic analysis and infrastructure survey.