The Malawi Government is racing against time to reap the benefits of the revised Mines and Minerals Act, having failed to activate the law before the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining has come under fire for delaying to gazette the law Parliament passed last December.
But director of mines Peter Chilumanga said in an interview on Monday this week the ministry is determined to ensure the law comes into force this year.
“The Act was accordingly assented to by the President early this year and only awaits the legally recognised gazetting process.
“It was hoped that the process would be completed before the elections, but we are working hard that the law is gazetted and starts working,” he said.
Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (Cepa) executive director William Chadza said the slow progress towards operationalising the law leaves the mining sector stuck on the downside of the 1981 version it was meant to replace.
He said: “We are sending mixed signals. On one hand, we seem to be keen to ensure we have an enabling legal framework in place so that we can increase the contribution of mining to the economy.
“On the other hand, in practice, we seem to be moving one step forward and three steps backward by not allowing the new regulatory regime and institutional framework to enable the sector have space to increase its benefits.”
In an interview, Simon Thipa from Ufulu Wathu community-based organisation in Phalombe said it is ironic the country is “clinging to the same old law” while the new one has stalled.
He said: “As young Malawians, we wanted the 1981 law to change because it did not give locals a say on mining activities.
“We were happy the day legislators passed the Bill, but the slowness to gazette it forces us to think that government only tabled the law in Parliament to calm down Malawians who were agitating for a new law.”
In 2017, the Chiringa-based youth activists in Phalombe were among hundreds of marchers who presented a petition to Parliament to accelerate the law reform which Moses Mkandawire, the programmes manager at CCAP Livingstonia Synod’s Church and Society, said government was supposed to spearhead.
Said Mkandawire: “Now that the President assented to the law, the Cabinet minister responsible has to put it into effect and work together with all stakeholders to translate the new law into usable text and strategies so that Malawians, including communities in mining hotspots benefit from our mineral wealth.”
Currently, mining revenue accounts for just one percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), down from 10 percent before the temporary shutdown of Kayerekera Uranium Mine in Karonga in February 2014.