Parliamentary Cluster Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation, Natural Resources and Climate Change co-chairperson Werani Chilenga says government’s laxity in curbing illegal mining is shortchanging the nation and depleting mineral resources with impunity.
He said this after his committee met officials from the Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources and Mining during a parliamentary cluster meeting last week, accusing the ministry of failure to enforce mining laws.
During the meeting, the committee expressed disappointment that ministry officials were failing to enforce law on illegal miners, yet the New Mining Act forbids any illegal mining.
Said Chilenga: “There is a lot of illegal mining taking place in the country, but the ministry is quiet. It looks as if they are not serious on containing the issue in the country. We will end up losing everything completely if nothing is done soon.”
There have been reports of illegal mining in places such as Namizimu Forest Reserve in Mangochi and in Traditional Authority Mazengera in Lilongwe. The miners were once chased away, but they are now back in search of corundum and gold deposits.
Last October, Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers chased away 118 illegal miners from Namizimu Forest Reserve. Among them were 84 Malawians, 31 Mozambicans, two Tanzanians and one miner from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But Chilenga said if the illegal mining continues, Malawi will continue to lose out on revenue that could have developed the country.
“We will wake up one day only to find all our minerals are gone. It is a shame that government fails to provide convincing answers. They just said [during the meeting] that they are working on it and that some issues are security in nature, but our resources continue to be depleted,” he said.
However, the ministry’s Principal Secretary Patrick Matanda said they are taking measures to deal with illegal mining in the country despite challenges.
He could not say what measures they are taking on illegal miners in the border districts and Namizimu to be specific, citing security issues.
Matanda said: “These are security matters, we cannot disclose much on the Namizimu Forest mining because the issue involves other countries, but as a ministry, we are working on strategies that will reduce cases of illegal mining.”
This did not go down well with the committee members who said government was using security as a scapegoat as it was doing nothing.
In the 2019/20 National Budget, government has allocated K40 billion to the energy and mining sector, an increase from K21.7 billion last financial year.
Speaking when he delivered the budget statement early this month, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha said government recognises mining as a sector with growth potential.
He said to facilitate and coordinate economic activities in the mining sector, government will establish the Malawi Mining Authority as a regulator for the sector.