Malawi Government lifts suspension of mining activities in forest reserves

By Chrissy Fereciah Nkumba

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change says it has lifted the suspension of mining activities in forest reserves which was meant to address “some pertinent issues.”

The Ministry’s Spokesperson Frank Nkondetseni told Mining and Trade Review in an interview that issues that resulted in the suspension of mining activities in forests included inadequate monitoring and patrolling teams in forest reserves and some shortfalls in procedures to grant mining/exploration licenses in forest reserves by Department of Mines, which have been resolved.

Nkondetseni explained that mining activities have now resumed in most forest reserves with the exception of Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve where a local firm Akatswiri Mineral Resources has prospecting rights for minerals such as rare earths and bauxite.

“This is a biosphere reserve where mining activities are not a priority. But for reserves such as Perekezi and Namizimu, mining is taking place. In Namizimu for example there is Chisomo Mining Cooperative mining gold. They are licensed by Forestry and Mines,” he said:

Nkondetseni explained that one is supposed to make an application to both Department of Mines and Forestry in order to be granted permits to conduct mining activities in forests.

He said: “Then if it is in a forest reserve, application is made to Forestry Department to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) once permission is granted by Forestry. The study is conducted in liaison with Environmental Affairs Department who provide names of eligible consultants to undertake the assessment at the expense of the applicant. If the study/assessment is feasible, the Department of Forestry may grant an annual operational licence to do mineral exploration or actual mining in the reserve”.

“However the results of the EIA/ESIA have to be endorsed by Malawi Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) first before any permission to conduct mining is granted.”

He said any activity in a forest reserve has to be scrutinized to avoid jeopardizing the very reasons the forest reserves were set aside for hence the studies and other relevant checks and balances.

Nkondetseni said the Mines and Forestry Departments work hand in hand to assess applications to conduct mining activities in forest reserves, and issues are ironed out through fruitful meetings.

“Each forest reserve was gazetted for particular reasons. As such, any new activity that is outside the reasons for gazetting the reserve has to be handled carefully by following the normal procedures,” he said.

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