Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (Cepa) says it has engaged communities in Malingunde in Traditional Authority Masumbankhunda in Lilongwe to prepare them for the graphite mining by Australian firm Sovereign Metals.
Cepa project officer for natural resources and mining Tamara Lonje said in an interview in Lilongwe that the meetings targeted people who will be directly affected by the project in terms of compensation, relocations, environment and cultural norms disruption.
“Despite communities taking part in the Environmental, Social and Impact Assessment [Esia], we observed that issues of relocation and compensation still sparked a lot of questions.
“We are preparing them on how to handle the displacement. The meetings were about gaining an in-depth of their roles, rights and responsibilities in areas of land acquisition in accordance with the law,” she said.
Lonje said people were more concerned about compensation and overlooked all other impact areas.
“The meetings afforded communities with necessary information that will allow them to equally appreciate the potential environmental impacts of the mining project and receive guidance on decision-making on compensation and relocations.
“It is also about empowering communities with knowledge on the advantages and disadvantages of choosing compensation over relocation,” she said.
The one-week training was conducted through participatory learning where communities were allowed to ask questions and seek clarity on some issues.
Environmental Affairs Department principal environmental officer Biswick Mlaviwa, who was one of the facilitators, told the participants that it is important that the community understands the impact of a mining project.
“This sensitisation is important because it helps them understand the processes that have been taking place.
“We took the opportunity to explain to them the basis of all this that it is a legal requirement both under the constitution and the Environmental Management Act,” he said.
Malingunde Mining Action Group Committee chairperson Oswald Siginala said the meeting was enriching.
“There was a lot of fake information which we were fed. There was fear that after the mining project, people will be relocated to far away places and that families might break apart.
“But all that has been clarified as we have been told that we have a right to choose where we want to go or where we can buy our own land in case we choose to get money as compensation compared to land,” he said.
Cepa is implementing the Tilitonse-funded Promoting Responsive and Accountable Extractives Industries Governance Project in Malingunde.