Mineral exports in the 2020/21 financial year continued to be dominated by ornamental stones used for interior decoration, Treasury records have shown.
According to the 2021 Malawi Government Annual Economic Report, the country exported 926.525 tonnes of ornamental or dimension stones valued at K227.5 million with China remaining the biggest export market.
This year, Treasury projects the exports to increase to 1 019.17 tonnes, generating K250.3 million in export revenue.
On the other hand, gemstones, lime products, rock chip samples and soil samples exports amounted to 13.014 tonnes, 2,790.1 tonnes, 6.64 tonnes and 7.288 tonnes, generating K92.1 million, K110.2 million, K2.7 million and K3.3 million, respectively.
Treasury notes that with lack of accredited laboratory facilities, the country has continued to rely on foreign-based accredited laboratories with modern equipment such as Genalysis Laboratory and ALS (Metallurgy) Laboratory based in both Australia and South Africa, Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services based in Kenya and Thin Section Laboratory based in France.
Reads the report in part: “On exportation, royalties are charged upon determination of the value of such samples in order to avoid misconceptions, and any bulk sampling, for a company that has embarked on BFS, has to be duly authorised based on purpose and
advancement of the project.”
Meanwhile, revenue from the government generated through the Department of Mines only amounted to K506 million in 2020 from royalties, licence processing and ground fees.
During the financial year under review, 174 export permits were issued for 13 tonnes of gemstones valued at K92.1 million while five export permits were also issued for 2 700 carats (540g) of cut and polished stones worth K3.7 million and another 15 export permits were issued for 926.525 tonnes of dimension or ornamentals stones worth K227.5 million.
In addition, 14 export permits were issued for 2 790 tonnes of lime products worth K110.2 million, another 31 export permits were issued for 6.6 tonnes of rock chip samples valued at K2.7 million while 32 export permits were issued for 3.2 tonnes of soil samples valued at K0.7 million.
Reads the report: “The exported gemstones were destined for China, Thailand, South Africa, France, United States of America, Canada and other European and Asian markets.
“Unfortunately, most of the gemstones were exported raw resulting in significant loss of value or earnings and only 2 700 carats [540g] of value added gemstones was exported.”
Earlier this month, the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change chairperson Werani Chilenga disclosed that the country is losing about K25 million per day through illegal mining, translating to about K9.1 billion per annum.
He said the Department of Mining is losing about K5 million a day to illegal mining at Namizimu Forest in Mangochi.
President Lazarus Chakwera earlier said that as a country, Malawi hase issued over 250 mining licences, but there is still no proper mining industry or returns to talk about.
He said: “This cannot continue, because not only are unregulated mining activities a threat to our national security, but they perpetuate Africa’s legacy of allowing unscrupulous external traders to exploit our people.”