Malawi Government grants gold exploration license for Namizimu Forest

Namizimu Forest is invaded by small scale gold miners

By Wahard Betha

The Ministry of Mining has granted a UK registered firm Haman Resources an exploration licence to prospect for gold within Namizimu Forest in Mangochi-Makanjira area.

Responding to an emailed questionnaire, Director for Mines who doubles as Commissioner of Mines and Minerals Samuel Sakhuta told Mining & Trade Review that the total area that will be explored is 204.67 square kilometers and the Company is interested in three potential sites within the area.

Sakhuta also said the Company has also made applications for gold mining licenses for the three potential sites; 43.75 square km; 21.13 square km and; 3.6 square km.

He explained that there will not be complications between licenses for Haman and other licenses for Artisanal and Small-scale Miners mining gold in the same forest.

Sakhuta said; “Within the 43.75 square kilometer area there are licensed ASMs and I assure the general public that these miners are protected and their land will not be allocated to another company or miner as long as their licenses are valid.”

“The law allows that mining claims for small scale miners can be allowed inside a medium or large scale license,” said Sakhuta.

Recently, the Ministry of Mining entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Malawi Defense Force (MDF) in an effort to control and flush out illegal gold miners and operators in Namizimu Forest.

However, there were complaints from ASMs at the site that MDF was beating up and chasing even those with licenses, a development which forced the Ministry to stop issuing licenses for the area.

Commenting on the development, first Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Mining Joseph Mkandawire expressed concern over the issue and said the Ministry has now submitted a list of all licenses that were already issued to MDF.  

MKandawire said: “As Ministry, we were very touched upon hearing this news. Our team including the Director in the Department of Mines visited the victims in hospital.”

“It was so stressing to see a lady who was hoping to mine and feed her family on a hospital bed in deep pain.”

“But the good news is that we have submitted to MDF a full list of licensed miners and the Ministry will continue to engage the MDF on how best the operations can be effective while observing the concerns of the licensed gold miners.”

The Reserve Bank of Malawi through its subsidiary Export Development Fund (EDF) started a gold buying program in May 2021 and is buying gold from locally licensed ASMs.

Government came up with the initiative following an outcry that Malawi is losing gold worth millions of dollars through smuggling by foreign nationals.

By August 31, 2023, gold purchases reached 8,949.51 grams costing MK829,460,600 for smelted gold and MK3,416,450 for un-smelted gold.

However, the gold buying initiative has been hindered with challenges including competition from illegal gold buyers who normally offer higher prices than EDF.

To control the influx of illegal foreign gold buyers, the Ministry has been lobbying for tighter border controls as well as engaging the small scale miners on the importance of selling the gold to EDF.

Apart from the influx of foreign illegal buyers, the other challenge is that some local gold miners in ASM hotspots opt to sell their gold to available buyers at that time, and to curb the situation the Ministry plans to open up buying points to be readily available at any time in the mining sites.

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