Malawi President Dr. Lazarous Chakwera’s urge for Malawians to diversify their economic activities from relying on agriculture to mining as the country’s source livelihood and economic development has excited artisanal small miners who have called on the government to hone their skills and marketing practices.
Malawi’s mining and quarrying sector accounts for about 1.6 percent of the country’s GDP and is projected to grow at 2.3 percent.
The booming construction industry is responsible for the growth of the quarrying sector, which is largely being exploited in many parts of the country by small scale unregistered and unregulated miners.
Chairperson for the informal Kamuzu Institute for Sports Quarry Mining Group, Samuel Chiniko, applauded government for the decision to promote mining. He has since requested the government to provide small scale miners with trainings that can equip them with mining skills to improve the quality of their products, access to mining equipment and markets. He expressed optimism that through government’s intervention the miners can benefit from their works.
The actual economic potential of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) is actually lost to the sector’s lack of legal or fiscal framework as well as because of rudimentary production, processing and marketing techniques.
ASM in Malawi is generally unregulated and is carried out through labour intensive methods for quarry stones for the booming construction industry, limestone for lime production, clay for pottery, gemstones and most recently, gold.
Informal alluvial gold panning activities are currently taking place in Mangochi, Lilongwe, Salima and Kasungu districts while gemstones including ruby, sapphire, tourmaline, aquamarine, and rhodolite are mined in Salima, Dowa, Mzimba districts. The Ministry of Mining intends to to establish a gemstone marketing centre to help small scale miners access markets
Though it is largely unregulated and practiced in rural settings, formal small scale mining can be done through accessing Mineral Permits, Mining Claim Licences and Reserved Mineral Licences.
Meanwhile, Chiniko further congratulated government on its recent announcement to allow the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) to start buying gold from artisanal small scale miners.
“We commend RBM for starting buying gold from local miners. However, our appeal is that government should also consider buying other types of minerals that equally do not have a formal local market,” said Chiniko
Jessie Soko, Chairperson for Tsabango Mining Cooperative (TMC) concurred with Chiniko, that miners have high expectations from government. She asked government to assist them in reducing stiff competition with big companies by providing access to reliable mining equipment.
“We believe that our business will pick up following president Lazarus Chakwera’s announcement that mining has been adopted as the source of local revenue replacing tobacco,” said Soko.
Chakwera recently expressed an urgent need for the country to switch away from tobacco farming to mining as an alternative revenue earner for the country following the challenges the tobacco industry is currently facing.
Minerals found in Malawi include rare earth minerals, limestone and dolomite, coal, uranium, heavy mineral sands, semi-precious gemstones, bauxite, graphite, gypsum, kaolinitic ceramic clays, glass sands, brick clays, rock phosphates, vermiculite, talc, pyrite/pyrrhotite, salt, kyanite, as well as alluvial gold mineralization and kimberlitic anomalies.
The country is also promoting oil and gas exploration, particularly around the Lake Malawi region despite experts raising environmental concerns, especially about the oil exploration around the lake.
Like many other African countries, most of these minerals remain untouched.
Malawi’s mineral resource development is characterised by low levels of mining, low value industrial, semi-precious and energy minerals. The country has so far made little progress in attracting investors regarding Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in the Mining sector.