Community members around Ilomba Granite Mine in Traditional Authority Mwaulambya in Chitipa have formed a cooperative to enhance bargaining powers with a prospective investor.
The development comes a year after the closure of mining activities at the site due to people’s differences with a Chinese investor over projects.
Speaking on Thursday when the Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace (CCJP) of Karonga Diocese engaged traditional leaders on mining issues, Ilomba Community Trust chairperson Harry Chawiri said they formed the cooperative after noting that the former investor mined for 30 years without giving back to the community.
He said: “The investor just drilled a borehole for the community, yet we agreed that they should rehabilitate the road and Ilomba Primary School.
“So, through the cooperative, we will have a stake in the mine.”
Group village head Mbilima justified the move, saying the formation of the cooperative will restore trust between the community and traditional leaders on benefit issues.
He said: “For long there have been allegations that chiefs receive bribes from investors.
“The cooperative will, therefore, be a bridge between the community and the investor.”
Karonga Diocese CCJP desk officer Louis Nkhata said they wanted to find out how the community was prepared in case government renews the former investor’s licence or gives it to another.
“We do not want a repeat of what happened last year when people lost property due to misunderstandings,” he said.
Nkhata was optimistic that the prospective investor will cultivate a good relationship with the community and incorporate the cooperative’s interests.
With funding from Australian Aid, Oxfam in Malawi through CCJP is implementing an extractive project in Karonga and Chitipa districts.