Malawi’s Mining Minister unveils exciting results for Geological Mapping Project

By Marcel Chimwala

Minister of Mining Honourable Monica Chang’anamuno MP has unveiled deliverables of the Geological Mapping and Mineral Resource Assessment Project (GEMMAP) describing the project as another important milestone in Malawi Government’s efforts to turn around the economy of the country.

GEMMAP, which is a 10.2-million Euros project implemented in a 5.6-year period with debt relief financing from the French Government, officially ended its implementation period on December 31, 2021.

The project’s deliverables include geological, geohazard, structural, mineral potential and mineral occurrence maps, a new documentation centre and a refurbished laboratory at the Geological Survey Department (GSD) headquarters with modern rock/mineral processing and analytical equipment.

At an official function to unveil the deliverables to the public and close the project held at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe, Chang’anamuno who was represented by Principal Secretary for Ministry of Mining Joseph Mkandawire said GEMMAP is among the priority activities that her Ministry undertook in order to reform the mining sector.

She said: “Malawi’s economy has been agro-based since independence. However, various factors including the anti-smoking global campaign, unpredictable and hostile climatic conditions among others, have heavily affected the agricultural sector and subsequently, the country’s agrarian-dependent economy.”

“Therefore, in a drive to diversify the economy, the Government, as spelt out in the Malawi Vision 2063 and its corresponding First 10 year Implementation Plan (MIP 2030), identified the mineral sector as one of the key priority areas, under Pillar II Industrialisation, that can lead to sustainable economic growth.”

“In this regard, the current Government through the dynamic leadership of His Excellency, Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, attaches strong commitment to ensuring the growth of the mining sector through various deliberate initiatives aimed at establishing a conducive investment environment in the mining sector.”

GEMMAP was executed by an international consortium of three national geological surveys; the French Geological Survey (BRGM) as a lead consultant, Finnish Geological Survey (GTK) and Council of Geoscience of South Africa (CGS).

The project has provided a set of modern geological and thematic maps of the Republic of Malawi at various scales that will serve as a fundamental base for the management of the mineral resources and allow risk assessment of geo-hazards of the country. Each map is accompanied by comprehensive explanatory notes and several memoirs were produced on various topics.

GEMMAP also developed strategies to supervise, control and improve conditions of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASMs); conducted capacity building training for geoscientists of the GSD to manage efficiently the geological resources and enhance geological knowledge through a comprehensive training program of formal courses and on-the-job experience; and provided infrastructural support to the Ministry of Mining through provision of several new 4×4 vehicles, camping and scientific equipment, laboratory refurbishment and new instrument installation, along with construction of a new, state-of-the art documentation centre on the Zomba campus.

Chang’anamuno said: “I am informed that a similar geological mapping project was done in the 1960s to 1970s. You may agree with me that the technology has today advanced so much that now we can acquire high quality and more accurate data than we could do fifty years ago.”

“The significance of quality and up to date geoscientific data in the promotion of mining cannot be over emphasized.”

“Good knowledge of the geology and mineral potential of the country will help potential investors in selecting areas for mineral exploration hence reduce risks that are associated with exploration and curb speculations in the mining sector.”

GEMMAP followed a comprehensive countrywide high resolution airborne geophysical survey that covered magnetic, radiometric and gravity conducted in 2013 and 2014 with its interpretation report produced in 2018 and readily accessible from the Geological Survey Department. This survey was locally dubbed KAUNIUNI and the data from it significantly contributed to the implementation of the GEMMAP programme with the two projects complementing each other.

Besides the French Government which financed GEMMAP, the Minister also thanked the World Bank and European Union for financing the Mining Governance and Growth Support Project (MGGSP), which, through KAUNIUNI, generated high resolution airborne geophysical data that was used in GEMMAP.

She also appealed to investors to utilise the newly acquired data to launch mineral prospecting projects across the country.

Chang’anamuno said: “I wish to take this opportunity to appeal to the private sector and our development partners to support my Ministry’s effort to realize a modern, efficient and effective mining industry.”

“As we have always strongly affirmed that Malawi is not poor even though the people may be poor, If efficiently used, the data from the GEMMAP may prove us right on this. Let me assure you all that my Ministry will do everything possible to support investors so that they find Malawi one of the best countries for their investment.”

In his remarks, Mr Bertrand Furno, who represented the French Ambassador to Malawi at the ceremony, said the French Government is impressed with achievements of GEMMAP.

“These results demonstrate that mining in Malawi has the potential to create jobs, generate substantial revenue for the government and enlarge the export base,” he said.

Furno said the French Government funded GEMMAP because France as a member of the European Union has interest to support the growth of the mining sector in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries.

As well as updating the geological map coverage of Malawi (producing 40 maps at the scale of 1:100 000, 10 maps at 1:250 000 and one map at 1:1 000 000) and the inventory of its mining potential, the programme included a geochemical survey of stream sediments, an analysis of the small-scale and artisanal mining sector, a natural risk (geohazards) mapping component, the construction of a documentation centre, upgrade of the GSD laboratory and training of Ministry of Mines staff.   

“One important aspect of the project is that for the first time in the history of Malawi, we have managed to produce geohazards maps which will be used by the Department of Disaster Management and District Councils for planning purposes,” said Project Manager for GEMMAP Thomas Fullgraf.

He explained that the geohazard maps depict areas prone to disasters such as floods, landslides and earthquakes.

Fullgraf said the geological, mineral occurrence and mineral potential maps will assist the country to identify potential areas for further mineral exploration.

“The project has identified potential for a number of minerals including graphite and rutile,” he said. 

GEMMAP also indexed and confirmed numerous occurrences of minerals in the country including sulphides, copper, graphite, titanium, vermiculite and rare earth elements, including high potential for the niobium used in new technologies.

In the laboratory that it has refurbished at the GSD headquarters, GEMMAP has installed new equipment including X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) instruments.

“The XRD can be used to identify all minerals. Nearly all the elements in a sample can be analysed by the XRF machine including the REE,” said Charles Missi; head of the GSD laboratory.

GEMMAP has trained GSD personnel to operate the laboratory equipment in its training component for professionals working for the Ministry of Mining.

The training programme also involved mentoring of Ministry of Mining professionals by consortium geologists, through work and diploma courses (Master of Science degrees and continuing training). Potential development plans for the coming years include establishing long-term cooperation between local academics (Chancellor College), the Ministry of Mining and foreign universities (France, Germany and South Africa).

Particular attention was given to small-scale mining for gemstones (corundum, ruby, beryl, tourmaline and spinel) with a view to organising the sector more efficiently, in particular through training for those involved and the establishment of a certificate of origin and the setting up of co-operatives.

Acting Director for the Geological Survey Department Kondwani Dombola hailed GEMMAP for developing the laboratory saying most of the samples, which would have been exported to be tested in foreign laboratories, will now be analysed locally.

He also said the new data obtained through GEMMAP will help in attracting investors to identify potential exploration and mining areas.

“Mining investors prefer those countries where adequate quality data is readily available so this data collected through GEMMAP put Malawi at an advantage as countries globally are competing for Foreign Direct Investment.”

The very well-functioning democracy in Malawi is also an important parameter that is taken into account by possible investors from Europe.

With adequate data on mineral availability and potential in place, other areas for Malawi to look at in order to attract investment in mining include the removal of red tape, transparency in the issuing of exploration and mining licences and vigilance in the fight against corruption.

Leave a Reply