Illegal mining has enshrined in the country with people flocking from neighbouring countries like Mozambique and Zambia to buy the precious stones in areas that have been deemed to be ‘grey areas’ for precious stones and rare minerals such as gold, graphite and aldate.
Gold is used for productions of precious materials such as trophies while aldate is used for production of jewel. Some of the places that well established markets have been created for the same such as Nanthenje River in Lilongwe, Namizimu Forest Reserve in Mangochi and at Dzundi in Nkhoma in the Area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Mazengera.
The ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining issued a press statement in local newspapers warning individuals involved in illegal mining to stop or face eviction saying such is an offence which is indicated in the Mines and Minerals Act (1981).
The Daily Times investigations has established that despite government issuing a press release warning the miners to stop the malpractice warning failure which they will be evicted and prosecuted, nothing of that calibre has taken place as people are still doing such without fear of anything.
Lloyd Ngoma of the small scale miner at Dzundi in T/A Mazengera said they trade without any hinderances saying it was only one time when the police came to inquire but after they had disccues with some authorities they were given a go ahead.
“It all started when some people from the South came saying they were looking for gold so when they did found the gold they started the work so we just noted what they were doing and we started doing the same. We receive a lot of buyers from Mozambicue and per day we end up selling K50,000 but on a luck day we sell gold of K200,000,” narrates Ngoma who says he did rent his mining place at K6000.
Alinafe Chilambura of Kabondo village in the same Area of T/A Mazengeraalso said at first life was hard for the villagers but now they are making a lot of money from such commodities.
“I leave home at around past 3 in the morning. We carry the soil to where it is needed and we make K5,000 sometimes K10,000 but yesterday I was very lucky, I made up to K45,000 the amount of money that I have never made or seen in my entire life,’’ she said.
Damianao Matenga a buyer from Mwanza we found at Dzundi buying the commodity said he sells the merchandise at Mozambicue and Tanzania. He has a machine that display the amount a seller is supposed to be given when it is weighed on the machine.
“When we buy we take the commodity to another market and we make calculations for instance we buy them at K20, 000 or indeed K22, 000 and at the market they burn it into one stone and we sell it at K24, 000 per gram we sell these in Tanzania and Mozambique like at now in Mozambique we are selling at a good price than in Tanzania,’’ he said.
Although the illegal business seems to have changed people’s economic lives, they have also brought about health, environmental and social problems.
Deep holes have been created in the areas where such activities are taking place and some people have actually died in Lilongwe while in the process of searching for such minerals and as that is not enough the Natural Resources Justice Network in Malawi says it has received reports that some foreigners who come to buy the precious stones have impregnated some locals in Mangochi.
Public Relations Officer for the Department of Forestry Sangwani Mwafulirwa did not deny that such activities are taking place in the country but said the Ministry had issued a strong warning on the same through the media. He however said he has to find out on issues regarding foreigners coming into the country in search of the special stones.
Three women Rosemary Chimbereko, Mtamandira Chipira and Rofina Jackson all from villages in the Area of T/A Chadza died along Nanthenje riverbanks when they were digging alluvial gold dusts.
Village Headman Nyandayankhate in Dowa also narrates that two women died in his Area when they were trying to look for good soil when a heep of soil fell unto them. Dowa Police Publicist Richard Kaponda said there is an area where people go and look for good soil where the incident occurred.
“Your observations are quite true that they are some reports being received by some quarters across the country that they are a number of people and communities involved in illegal mining and we call it illegal because they have not yet come to government to express interest on the same because miners are supposed to have an authority from government which is only provide for by the director of mines”.
"We have-not yet actually noted that as to whether they are foreigners coming in the country to buy our gold, we are yet to prove that one because I have not yet received but reports have it that they are some foreigners who came into the country who came to buy the traces of gold but we are yet to establish as to how much gold is there but what we know is that there is that traces of gold," he said.
But Chairperson of Natural Resources Justice Network in Malawi Kosam Munthali said what is making Malawians to move into the industry for the industry is high cases of poverty. He also said it is surprising that for a number of years the government has been issuing warning through press releases but at the end the government is silent which raises a lot of questions. He also said such issues sometimes arise due to outdate laws being used and says government has to quickly update such a law.
"All these activities are illegal in nature and from far you can tell that from the time government started issuing warnings, probably nothing is working. In our view there is laxity on the side of the government in terms of making sure that they brig sanity in all these areas’’.
“We have a lot of illegal buyers who have travelled all the way from Mozambique, Zimbabwe even the Chinese. We are seeing a lot of environment degradation and there also social problems such as those illegal buyers they come here without their wives because of the influence of money they have been able even in Mangochi to start impregnating the miners as well. It is also not a secrete even issues of HIV/AIDS are rising and at the end of the day Malawi is losing alot in terms of revenue because government is not collecting taxes,” he said.
Recently the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus expressed concern on the delays by government to table Mines and Mineral Bill over three years after consultations on the same were concluded.
The 1981 Mines and Mineral Act is the one being used currently to regulate mining in Malawi. However, there are concerns that Malawi is losing a lot in natural resources due to the old laws the country is using.
Chairperson of the Caucus, Welani Chilenga said it is the concern as the proposed bill aims to regulate the development of mineral resources of Malawi through adherence to sustainable development principles.
The bill also states that the entire property in minerals, in, under or upon any land or waters in Malawi are vested in the Republic, but without prejudice to the exercise of any right under or pursuant to the Act.
Stakeholders involved have been arguing that the country is losing such natural resources and that people living in areas rich in mines in the country are subjected to human rights violations due to the out-dated Act.
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining once told the media that the ministry completed all consultative processes such as soliciting views from various stakeholders. The Ministry also said it had compiled the final draft of the bill which was submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in August 2015.