By Wahard Betha
The Ministry of Mining says it plans to flush out illegal Artisanal and Small-scale Miners (ASMs) who have invaded Chimwadzulu Corundum Mine, whose tenement holder is a local firm Mwalawanga Mining.
First Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Mining Joseph Mkandawire told Mining & Trade Review that the Ministry has come up with three solutions to deal with the problem of illegal mining at Chimwadzulu, and one of them is to consult the District Council for Ntcheu to deliberate on how they can amicably resolve the issue with the local communities.
Mkandawire said: “If this solution fails to work out, we will send a secret intelligence team to identify the ring readers and then report them to Police so that they are arrested and formally charged.”
“Our final solution is to involve the Malawi Defense Force to flush them out which is the final option if the first two solutions fail to work out.”
Commenting on the development, Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change Werani Chilenga advised both the Company and the Ministry to consider engaging various parties to deal with the matter.
Chilenga said it will be appropriate if a visit to the site is arranged for various stakeholders including Parliamentary Committee members, Ministry of Mining officials, representatives of the Company, the District Council including chiefs, and Civil Society Organizations.
He said: “This is the only approach which we feel will flush out these illegal miners peacefully because we believe some of the miners are not aware of the laws. They do not know what it means when someone is given a license.”
“So we, as members of the committee which also includes Member of Parliament for that area, together with chiefs will be able to sensitise the community so that they are aware that what they are doing is unlawful. With good practices, the mine can be beneficial to them as well as the country,” said Chilenga.
Chilenga, however, expressed concern over delays by the company to kick-start operations at the site saying this sometimes triggers illegal mining as members of the community may feel that the licence holder is no longer interested or has no capacity to conduct mining operations.
But Consulting Geologist for Mwalawanga John Nkhoma told Mining & Trade Review that the company has already bought processing equipment currently being kept in Blantyre waiting to be installed at the site.
Nkhoma said: “What is delaying the company to kick-start production is Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) which is yet to be approved by Malawi Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA).”
“But we have purchased our processing machines and as soon as these illegal miners are moved out, we will install at the site because right now we cannot do that as the equipment may be stolen by the illegal miners.”
“Talking of the engagement with the community, I have to consult our management and am sure we will invite the parliamentary committee and other stakeholders to visit the area.”
Government awarded Mwalawanga Mining Limited the mining licence for Chimwadzulu Corundum after the licence for Nyala Mines Limited expired in October 2017.
Corundum is processed into ruby and sapphire, which are ranked among the world’s expensive gemstones.