By Bester Kayaye
Minister of mining Albert Mbawala has advised investors to fast-track mineral exploration projects to progress to mining stage in order for the extractive sector to adequately contribute to sustainable economic growth.
The Minister highlighted this following a series of meetings he had with several private sector players in the mining sector.
Speaking after meeting the MD for Rift Valley Mining Company Russell Thorncroft, Mbawala said government is optimistic that the company’s quarrying and limestone processing project in Chikwawa will ease importation costs of hydrated lime for sugar and steel production lines.
The mining company is scheduled to commence limestone quarrying and processing in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts where it will be producing hydrated lime, quick lime and agricultural lime.
The Minister said the country needs such strategic investments for economic growth as production of hydrated lime reflects tremendous advancement in sugar and steel production lines.
Mbawala said: “Hydrated lime is very useful in the production of sugar and steel. However, 100% of hydrated lime used by sugar and steel producing companies in our country is imported from Zambia or South Africa, sometimes as far as the Middle East.”
The Minister explained that such importation trends have left the country’s economic status on standstill due to drainage effect on foreign exchange coffers.
He said: “As government we believe once this company starts its operations, the importation of hydrated lime will be reduced or completely come to an end.”
“We are, therefore, very optimistic that this project will help our country save forex and generate some through exportation of the hydrated lime, additionally the project poses to create employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labour.”
He pledged that government is ready to offer support for smooth implementation of the project citing, “it is the dream of current regime to have a vibrant mining industry which contributes massively towards social and economic development of our country.”
Meanwhile, the company has already conducted feasibility studies and exploration, with advanced drilling slated to begin in May this year.
When he met the directors of Mwalawanga Company Ltd, the Minister was dismayed to learn that the company has not been operational despite being granted a mining license to mine corundum (ruby and sapphire ore) in the Chimwadzulu Hills in Traditional Authority Mpando’s area in Ntcheu District.
The company is yet to complete Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), in order to operationalize the mine.
“I strongly warned that if the company remains dormant, government will take necessary action. I therefore, asked the company to complete all pre-mining activities as soon as possible and rollout operations.”
Mwalawanga has been unable to operationalize the mine since 2018 having been granted the license after government rejected to renew the license of a previous holder Nyala Mines Limited which expired in October 2017.
Mbawala also announced that he met the directors of Bwanje Cement Company Ltd which is also located in Ntcheu District to appreciate their progress and the challenges the company is facing.
The Company is prospecting for limestone for cement production in the area.
Mbawala said the directors reported that extensive drilling has been done on some hills and evaluation of mineral resources reserve is on-going.
“They also reported that Environmental Impact Assessment was already done and approved by Malawi Government; Department of Environmental Affairs. The company officials promised to start full operations by the end of this year. I therefore assured them of government’s unlimited support in their activities,” he said.
The Minister explained that once the company operationalises, it will help in creation of not less than 1000 jobs, generation of the much needed forex, and reduce importation of clinker thereby reducing cement costs.
“The government of Dr Lazarus Chakwera realises that the mineral sector has a significant potential to contribute towards the rapid economic growth and development of the country. I will therefore continue engaging investors in mining industry,” he said.
The mining sector contributes less than 1% to Malawi’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and government is upbeat that the contribution will drastically increase to 20% if several potential mining projects currently in exploration stage come on stream.