Malawi Government shuts down
illegal gemstone mine in Mzimba

By Jane Gondwe

The Malawi Government has closed down a gemstone mine in Perekezi Forest in Mzimba belonging to a miner identified as Stanley Masiku.

Masiku, who allegedly partnered a man believed to be a Chinese national, deployed an excavator at the mine where they were extracting gemstones including aquamarine, crystal quartz and smoky quartz.

Reads a letter from the Commissioner of Mines and Minerals dated June 1, 2022 signed by Mining Inspector Zutu Liabunya: “Following an inspection that was carried out in your licence area SML1011 in Mzimba District by officers from the Department of Mines, on 18th May, 2022, a report was prepared and submitted to the Commissioner of Mines and Minerals.”

“At the site, you were found to be using mechanized equipment in a manner contrary to that stipulated in the letter from the Commissioner allowing you to use the machines.”

Liabunya advises the miner to immediately proceed to rehabilitation work at the mine site under the supervision and satisfaction of the Commissioner of Mines and Minerals and Department of Forestry.

He says after rehabilitation is completed, the machinery will be removed from the site but advised the miner to proceed with the process of obtaining environmental clearance from the Malawi Environmental Protection Authority.

“You are further notified that your licence will remain under a state of suspension until the said actions have been completed to the satisfaction of the Commissioner,” says Liabunya.

Masiku rehabilitated the site as ordered by the Commissioner of Mines and in a letter dated June 10, 2022, Mzimba District Forestry Officer L.S. Banda notifies the Regional Mining Engineer’s office that it assessed the mining site and found out that Masiku had complied with the order.

Banda, however, observes that Masiku operated the mine illegally because he had no permit from the Department of Forestry.

He says: “An assessment was also conducted on the damage caused due to his illegal mining. Currently, there is no mining activity taking place.”

“The volume of trees damaged is 59.82 m2and the price of the damaged Brachystagia trees per cubic metre is K8,000. Therefore, the total amount of all the damaged trees is K478,589.70.”

But Acting Deputy Director of Forestry Francis Chilimampunga in an interview questioned the calculations by the Mzimba District Forestry office to come up with the K478,589.70 fine.

“Section 64, subsection (d) of the Forestry (Amendment) Act 2020, states that any person who, without authority, clears, cultivates, digs or breaks up land for any road or any purpose whatsoever and brazes livestock in a forest reserve or protected area, commits an offence and shall upon conviction, be liable to fine of K5-million or imprisonment for a term of 10 years,” he said.

Chilimampunga warns miners who encroach protected areas to conduct mining activities without permits saying such crimes attract stiff penalties.

‘’Our resolution is to suspend issuing of any new permits to do with mining and exploration in the forest reserves such as Perekezi, Namizimu, and Bunganya because it has proven destructive to the environment, therefore we will only continue with those who were already given permits and are complying,” he says.

Malawi has a number of mineral deposits in protected areas, and mining experts have been calling for close cooperation between Departments of Forestry, Mining and Environmental Affairs to enable sustainable mining of these minerals for the benefit of the nation.

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