By Gloria Mbwana
The Gemstone Association of Malawi (GAM) has called on the government to scale up its support to artisanal and small scale mining (ASM) activities so that the subsector is able to play a greater role in poverty alleviation through economic empowerment of local ASMs.
GAM National Coordinator XinaLungu told Mining & Trade Review in an interview on the sidelines of the meeting organized by GAM’s central region chapter at Lilongwe CCAP School that it is high time Malawi borrowed a leaf from other African countries such as Kenya and Tanzania which have organized ASM subsectors that substantially benefit local miners.
“We very much appreciate the support we have from the government in areas such as provision of technical and business training to local mining cooperatives but we need more support to ensure that the subsector is thriving both for our benefit and for the benefit of the country’s economy,” he said.
He suggested that, among other things, government needs to set up a revolving fund to assist local ASMs easily access capital for their operations.
Lungu said the government should also consider providing mining and processing machinery to ASM cooperatives as the case is in Tanzania.
He said the government should remove obstacles that ASMs encounter in acquiring mining licences suggesting that it would be easier for the miners if their licenses are acquired at local/district level.
Lungu also proposed to government to consider reducing the royalty rate for gemstones produced by local ASMs as a way of motivating them to work hard and in turn pay more royalties and taxes to government.
“It is unfortunate that the game seems to be in favour of large-scale miners who are given tax holidays or waivers unlike us, ASMs, who are paying huge chunks of money in loyalties when we export our products. At the same time the span of licensing is so short on ASM hence due to problems in raising capital to mobilise and develop mines, some ASMs lose out on their tenements,” he said.
Lungu also lamented the proliferation of illegal mining activities in the country which are benefitting unlicensed miners including foreigners.
Illegal mining activities have sprouted up in the country in a number of ares including Nathenje in Lilongwe, Lisungwe in Mwanza, Balaka and Mangochi-Makanjira.
“It is unfortunate that most of the people who are mining in these areas do not understand the laws, policies and regulations of the country including those to do with health, safety and environmental issues. It is high time government regulated this industry for the benefit of its citizenry,” he said.
GAM’s recent activities included an ASMs training programme held in May 2018 in which 200 local ASMs were trained by American experts.
Lungu, however, said lack of funding is a stumbling block for the organization to organise more training programmes, and urged well-wishers to support the initiative.
GAM Secretary General Annie Kamanga urged the government and its cooperating partners to recognize the huge role women play in mining, and formulate programmes to empower them.
“Women miners need to be supported because they are playing a very big role in the mining sector. For example if you go to the quarry or gold panning sites, you will find more women there,” said Kamanga.
GAM is a long time organization which was founded in the 1970s, and has three regional chapters namely Northern, Central and Southern.
Among other things, the organization has so far organized training tours for ASMs to a number of countries including Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and United States Of America (USA).
The Lilongwe meeting was organized to review and assess progress made in 2018 and plan ahead for 2019.