Government has engaged the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) to drive out illegal miners in areas where illegal mining is rampant.
MDF soldiers on October 16 raided one of the mines at Namizimu Forest Reserve in Traditional Authority (T/A) Makanjira in Mangochi where they arrested 133 miners for being found operating unauthorised mining activities.
MDF public information officer Paul Chiphwanya said the people, now in police custody, comprise 93 Malawians, 34 Mozambicans, four Tanzanians, one Congolese and one Turkish.
Upon raiding the mine, the MDF destroyed a community that was created deep in the forest to support the mining activity and was believed to have at least 1 500 people either doing the mining or involved in economic activities that supported the workers.
It is believed that people have been mining at the site, which is located in the forest, about two kilometres from the Malawi-Mozambique border for over two years.
According to Chiphwanya, there are corundum deposits at the mine. Corundum is an extremely crystalised aluminum that is used as an abrasive, some varieties of which are ruby and sapphire.
He said the army officers will stay in the forest for as long as it takes to eliminate the illegal mining activities.
During a visit to the forest reserve on Tuesday, The Nation crew saw excavated stretches of up to 100 metres with over 30 manually-constructed mine shafts as deep as 20 metres.
Chief Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet Lloyd Muhara issued a statement on October 29 stating that the MDF intervention is a result of a series of meetings that government and its security agencies held to evict the illegal miners.
The statement further reveals that most of the arrested foreigners had no proper documentation such as work permits.
In the statement, government acknowledges the presence of precious mineral deposits, including gold, in the country.
In his remarks, senior group village head Saiti Mwazungu of T/A Makanjira hailed government for deploying the soldiers who have flushed out the illegal miners from his area.
He said government needs to identify investors to mine the precious stones based on proper agreements that can benefit the nation.
Mwazungu said the community wrote a petition to the District Commissioner asking for government’s intervention on the matter.