Mkango Resources Limited, a mining firm exploring rare earths at Songwe Hills in Phalombe, has unveiled plans to start extracting the minerals by 2024.
The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX)-listed mining firm, has been exploring the prospects of extracting the minerals used in making mobile phones and computer accessories since 2010, forcing hillside communities to ask: When should we expect mining to begin?
The firm’s environmental manager Bradley Thornton gave a blow-by-blow countdown at a meeting with locals in Phalombe on Friday and there was a reason worth the five-year wait.
“We conducted a pre-feasibility study to determine if there is something to look at and the exploration showed what we have in the hills is worthy of further investments.
“This brings us where we are right now. We need two years to conduct definitive feasibility studies to be 100 percent sure of what’s in the ground and how to extract it. After analysing the findings, we will compile a document to be used to raise funding for the project before we can start constructing the mine.”
Thornton, who flew from South Africa on Thursday, detailed tentative timelines for the project whose prefeasibility report is expected to be released in November this year.
The timeline shows that the bankable feasibility will take two years, after which the company will need a year to source funds and another two years to build a mine.
“We need to do it efficiently and profitably. So, the likelihood of success depends on how well we extract the mineral and some external factors, including the availability of demand on the international market, government support, electricity supply and the state of roads,” Thornton said.
Traditional leaders surrounding Songwe Hill commended the company for being transparent in its dealings.
Said group village head Maone: “The country’s mining sector has long been veiled in secrecy, but Mkango has once again proved to be a shining example.”
Geological Survey Department acting director Kondwani Dombola implored communities near mining sites to work closely with mining firms to maximise benefits.
He stated: “The revised Mines and Minerals Act passed by Parliament last year gives you and the mining company the liberty to negotiate community development agreements, which you can start auditing a year after signing the dotted lines.”
Centre for Policy and Advocacy (Cepa) natural resources manager Tamara Lonje commended Mkango for being open, saying transparency and accountability is key to strengthening good governance in the country’s mining sector.
She said: “Cepa advocates the concept of free prior informed consent, meaning that people close to mining activities have to be informed of incoming projects because they have the right to accept or reject them.
“This strengthens the relationship between mining companies and communities, which has not been good in the country.”