By Chrissy Fereciah Nkumba
The Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA) says failure by Government and other stakeholders to sensitize Artisanal and Small Scale Miners (ASM) on the ASM policy, mining and environmental laws is contributing to various social and environmental challenges.
CEPA Programme Officer Charles Kabambe told Mining and Trade Review that though the Mines and Minerals Act of 2019 demands that all miners, be it ASM or large scale need to rehabilitate their mines once they are done with extraction, mines in ASM hotspots are abandoned without any rehabilitation posing environmental dangers.
Kabambe said: “These challenges are coming in ASM because there has been lack of sensitization and awareness on the importance of ASM Policy principles adoption to the miners in Malawi.”
“Being a nomadic venture, the miners do not value environmental rehabilitation due to limited knowledge and pure negligence. The outreach has not been robust and radical enough to inspire the reorganization and mindset change within the sector led by government aligned departments, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders.”
“Enforcement of these regulations and directives by Police and the Judiciary has also been a challenge due to the disorganization of the sector and limited collaboration of stakeholders.”
Besides environmental problems, ASM operations in Malawi are also characterized by social challenges including child labour with some children forced to drop out of school to carry out ASM activities.
Kabambe said CEPA under its ASM project called Sustainable Artisanal Mining Applied for Livelihood Advancement (SAMALA) is working with stakeholders in Balaka to address child labour issues in mining hotspots in the district.
Kabambe said: “The absence of Mines Officers in districts is also proving a challenge in as far as collaboration and access to information is concerned at district level.
“It can never be easy for locals to be searching for guidance from Capital Hill due to their limited capacities (finance, limited knowledge and illiteracy)”
“The deployment of Mines Officers, adequate funding to this district office and stakeholder’s collaboration can bring direction and order to the sector.
“It is easier to experience very few cases of accidents and deaths when the miners are trained in sustainable mining, health, safety and environmental management by the Ministry of Mining and the Department of Environmental Affairs.”
He said there are positive strides in ASM hotspots where Government and the CSOs have facilitated the establishment of mining cooperatives after government entities including Ministry of Trade, Labour, Social Welfare, Mining and the Department of Environmental Affairs trained the ASMs.
Kabambe said the trained cooperatives have been able to grow and implement the guiding principles with regard to mineral business, health and safety, environmental management and issues to do with child labour elimination.
He said some cooperatives have been able to come up with local by-laws to safeguard high value mineral trade and eradicate illegal externalization of minerals.
He said: “The coming in of Reserve Bank through Export Development Fund has also helped in providing a reliable and profitable market for the established and organized cooperatives in Malawi.”
“If this model can be populated then sanity will prevail within the sector for the benefit of the nation as a whole.”