Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN), a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), has asked government to clarify the status of Kayelekera Uranium Mine following a move by Paladin Africa, a subsidiary of ASX and TSX-listed Paladin Energy, to dispose of some of its equipment.
Uranium production at the mine was suspended in 2014 following a slump in uranium prices after the Fukushima (Japan) nuclear accident. It is now under care and maintenance.
However, a newspaper advert published last week shows that the company is disposing of 36 vehicles, 13 generators and three fork-lifters, among other items.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, NRJN chairperson Kossam Munthali said the disposal is a clear sign that Paladin Africa is closing shop in Malawi.
He said that it is unfortunate that government is not coming forth with information regarding the status of the mine.
“We want government to come out clearly on this matter. It owes Malawians an explanation,” Munthali said.
Munthali claimed that Malawians were not told the truth that the mine is under care and maintenance and got a raw deal from Paladin Africa.
“Now they are selling everything which is obvious that they have packed and are leaving. This is a sad development. We would not have gone through this experience,” he said.
But Paladin Africa’s consultant on Kayelekera Uranium Mine, Grain Malunga, said the company is going nowhere and only disposing of surplus equipment because the mine has not been operational for four years.
“They are not closing shop in Malawi. The mine is still under care and maintenance. They are only disposing of surplus equipment. Imagine, out 50 vehicles, they are only using 25 while they are only using two generators,” he explained.
Malunga, a former minister of Energy, added that the company will replace the equipment when operational.
Concurring with Malunga, director in the department of mines under Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Jalf Salima said government has not received any communication regarding the company folding business in the country.
He said government will update the nation when it receives any communication to that effect.
Mining is expected to resume at the mine once uranium price rise to $58 per pound and gets connected to the national power grid.
Malawians have been concerned with the lack of transparency and government’s failure to consult the public on the whole project through which reports indicate Malawi lost about $27 million through tax exemptions and royalties. n