Concerned citizens comprising small-scale miners and traditional leaders have questioned the benefits from Chimwadzulu mine in Ntcheu, arguing the precious stones do not benefit locals.
Chimwadzulu mine is home to rubies, one of the four precious stones— diamonds, emeralds and sapphires.
The mine has been in operation for the past 50 years but locals contend that the gemstones only benefit foreigners and there is nothing to show for the community in terms of benefits.
Arguing their case when they made a surprise visit to the mine on Thursday, representatives of Gemstones Association of Malawi, Blantyre Mining Association, Women in Mining and Chichiri Mining Cooperative said the locals need to benefit from the stones which are considered one of the most expensive.
John Chikokoto, speaking on behalf of the concerned citizens, said the mine should be portioned to benefit small-scale miners.
“We are not convinced that no sales are being made because the previous operators were also saying the same. We suspect that sales are being made and it is proper that the operator be open because in this way Malawians can benefit through paying of correct amounts of taxes and employment,” he said.
Tradition Authority (T/A) Mpando, who was present during the visit, said it is worrisome that the mine has not benefited the community.
“I had serious problems in the way the previous operators run this mine. I hope that the current [operator] will behave in a different manner,” he said.
But Abdul Mahomed managing director of Nyala Mines, the current operator, said that they have not yet started selling the precious stones because they were building inventory to satisfy customer requirements.
“When I arrived in July 2011, the mine was closed for almost three years because the previous operators were investing money, but were not getting the returns because they had the wrong people. We are now confident that we can bring the mine into commercial production but we need to plan and engage professionals.
“We have assembled a dream team to make sure Chimwadzulu can now make the strides it has been promising for the last 50 years. The mine was discovered in 1958 and very little has been done to exploit it,” said Mahomed.
He said the mine activities are already contributing a lot to the community and plans are there for the mine to contribute more to the development.
“We have constructed a borehole for the school, given materials for the construction of teachers’ houses, given uniforms and exercise books to students and assorted teaching materials to the school,” said Mahomed.
He said since rubies are a very scarce mineral, the miner is focusing on corundum to get between five to 100 grams a day.
Mahomed said there are 16 colours coming out of the mine and are working with Columbia Gem House and that so far, exports have been for testing clarity, colour, type, shape and cut.