A team of international and local specialists led by the UK-based Land Use Consultants (LUC) is currently undertaking a strategic environmental and social assessment of the country’s mining sector.
The assessment, which begun in October 2013, is an internationally recognised process for reviewing policies and programmes to ensure that they take into consideration environmental and social factors.
The work is part of the Malawi Government’s Mining Governance and Growth Support Project (MGGS), supported by the World Bank and the European Union (EU).
Minister of Mining, John Bande, said in Lilongwe on Wednesday that the assessment will diagnose key environmental and social problems, and opportunities associated with the anticipated growth of Malawi’s mining sector.
“The assessment will identify the policy, legal, regulatory and institutional adjustments and capacity building actions needed to minimise the adverse environmental and social impact of mining operations and associated infrastructure development while enhancing the positive impact,” said Bande.
The minister was speaking at the Bingu International Conference Center (BICC) when he officially opened a stakeholders’ consultation workshop of the assessment, which was a third in a series of countrywide stakeholder consultative meetings.
So far, two similar workshops have been held in Mzuzu and Karonga and the fourth workshops will be held in Blantyre.
The minister said the assessment will propose specific measures that government can implement in the near future to improve the environmental and social sustainability of mining in Malawi, particularly through the MGGS project.
“While my ministry seeks to create a more favourable enabling environment for the expansion of large-scale as well as artisanal and small scale mining in Malawi, we are also conscious of the fact that mining may cause environmental issues ranging from waste rock and tailing disposal, land disturbance, dust and noise to water use and pollution,” added Bande.
He said the potentially rapid future expansion of mining in Malawi poses substantial environmental and social risks that could undermine both the benefits provided by the sector and national support for its development.
The recommendations of the Lilongwe workshop will feed into the assessment report which will outline the priority actions that will be put in a short, medium and long term action plan.