Malawi Government has claimed that Globe Metals and Mining wants Capital Hill to pump in 90 percent of the projected $400 million (K180 billion) Kanyika Niobium mining project, a move Lilongwe has described as a joke.
With such a 90-10 percent investment split, it means that Capital Hill has to pump in $360 million (K162 billion) or four times the 2015/16 farm input subsidy budget while Globe will only cough the remaining 10 percent or $40 million (K18 billion).
Furious with such a demand, principal secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Ben Botolo said the company should not get a mining licence.
Botolo said government would be a “laughing stock” if it pumped the $360 million in one mining project when there is a myriad of social services that need urgent funding.
It would also be ironical in the sense that government has just wrapped up an international investors conference where it was wooing investors to bring foreign direct investment into the country.
Speaking at a meeting in Mzimba on Tuesday, Botolo accused the multinational mining company of not having money and wants government to become an outright majority shareholder in the niobium mine with mineable uranium ores.
He told M’mbelwa District Council and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) officials that the locals listed for resettlement in 2012 are suffering because government cannot bow down to the potential investor’s proposal to invest just 10 percent in the hugely touted mining project.
Government and the company have been negotiating a development agreement for almost four years, compelling some locals to stop farming, building permanent houses and planting trees having been told they will relocate anytime, according to local leaders.
Botolo said Globe’s proposed deal was “a complete joke”, saying government has no plans to venture into mining activities.
Giving a glimpse of tough negotiations, he said: “I asked them to go and compensate the community if they are interested in mining, but they said: We don’t have money; we want 90 percent to be taken by government.”
Asked for their side of the story, Kanyika Niobium Project spokesperson Christopher Ngwena asked for a questionnaire, which he had not responded to by press time.
The seemingly endless licence talks have left Chief Mabulabo and other traditional leaders in Mzimba calling for an immediate cancellation of the project they blame for disrupting livelihoods in the rural setting.
Paramount Chief M’mbelwa said there was no need to keep Malawians in suspense as it is obvious the mining deal has flopped.
“The people have to go back to their normal lives,” said Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa V.
This protracted issue has deepened uncertainty among the nearly 250 households demanding compensation for resettlement and the time wasted.
Mzuzu Diocese’ CCJP diocesan secretary Arnold Msimuko commended Botolo for coming out clear on the lengthy negotiations, saying secrecy is paralysing the country’s extractive industry and affects Malawians.
The activist said the affected population deserves compensation for the disturbances in the past four years whether mining will go on or not.