The Natural Resources and Climate Change Committee of Parliament has warned Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining of unspecified action if it fails to police illegal mining and trade of gemstones and other minerals.
The committee’s chairperson Werani Chilenga, in an interview on Monday, expressed dismay that despite having a strong Mines and Mineral Act of 2018, the minister was failing to prepare guidelines for the implementation of the law to curb illegal mining and trade malpractices.
The development comes amid reports that gemstones mined in the country are being exported illegally through Dar es Salaam Port in Tanzania to Far Eastern countries at the expense of tangible economic benefits to the nation.
Said Chilenga: “As a committee, we are aware of the development and for your information, an analysis was made that indicated that we are losing over K5 million daily from Namizimu Forest alone and it could be more if we include other illegal mining activities.
“The traders of the gemstones are buying from Malawians and other nationals who are illegally mining and there is no control and the ministry is to blame for all these issues. We will call ministry officials to give them timeframe to come up with the regulations.”
He said the ministry operationalised the law in September, but is yet to come up with operational guidelines.
Chilenga said the development has created a situation where mining is free for all because the ministry does not have guidelines to penalise offenders.
Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining spokesperson Sangwani Phiri refused to comment on the issue, saying it will issue a press statement on the same issue.
Earlier, the ministry said it was working on helping small and artisanal miners to formalise their trade so that it starts benefitting the economy.
On his part, Natural Resources Justice Network chairperson Kossam Munthali, who leads a grouping of some 30 local and international civil society organisations (CSOs) said government has ignored the reasoning of the CSOs that it should embrace small miners.
He said small miners are usually exploited by foreigners for labour and cheap mineral nugget purchases, adding that government should train and fund them into licensed cottage enterprises from which government will collect fees and royalties.
“It is over seven years now since our network, for example, began lobbying for the community training sessions. All this time, government has been paying lip service to the idea, even on a precautionary basis,” said Munthali.
In December last year, Parliament passed the long-awaited Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, which was earlier this year assented to by the President.
The legislation seeks to regulate the development of mineral resources in the country through adherence to sustainable development principles.