Tempers flared at a mining meeting in Mangochi last week as chiefs and members of the community expressed dissatisfaction with the approach authorities are taking in handling illegal mining in the district.
The meeting, organised by Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN), brought together chiefs, religious leaders, residents around the areas where mining is taking place and officials from the Department of Mines.
NRJN chairperson Kossam Munthali said the meeting was meant to follow up on what the authorities had done on illegal mining in Namizimu Forest Reserve in Makanjira, Mangochi and other areas in the district, a month after government had threatened to forcibly evacuate all the miners.
Civil society organisations, chiefs and representatives of the community made their presentations on the state of affairs at Namizimu Forest where about 1 500 people are scrambling for traces of gold and other minerals at the expense of the environment and health of the people.
Tempers flared when director of mines Jalf Salima updated the meeting on the current situation at Namizimu Forest.
“We took your concerns to the relevant authorities and sensitisation was made to the people in Namizimu Forest and surrounding areas that they should vacate on their own by July 21 2018 or risk forceful evacuation,” he said.
However, his response did not please the residents and religious leaders who argued that authorities are handling the matter with kid gloves.
“After giving you the two-week ultimatum in July to have the illegal miners thrown out of Namizimu Forest, we didn’t expect that we would be here talking about the same issue,” said Sheikh Abdullah Kaposa.”
Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi national vice-chairperson Sheikh Omar Sulaimana said the issue has dragged for a long time and that the mining activities have caused damage.
He warned that if the authorities continued to dilly-dally on the matter, people from Mangochi would mobilise and take the law into their own hands.
The meeting gave the Department of Mines three weeks to push the authorities for action.
The mineral sector experienced a tremendous growth trajectory of over 1.6 percent in 2017/18 fiscal year, according to the 2018 Malawi Government Annual Economic Report.
Mineral exploration and production also increased in most cases as a result of continued demand by the mineral consuming industries, and the export market, said the report.