All Africa Conference of Churches bemoans growth of illicit mining on the continent

Despite Africa being rich in mineral resources, a lot of it is plundered through illicit mining being perpetrated by foreigners — thus the continent needs to unite to jealously protect its God-given resources.

This is the take home substance by Economic Justice & Accountability Ambassador for All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) Malawi, Reverend Baxton Maulidi from the Alternative Mining Indaba which he attended in Cape Town, South Africa.

Maulidi said what the meeting discussed in as far as protection of Africa’s mineral resources, is what was supposed to have been done a long time ago but the continent allowed foreigners under their watch to plunder through illicit mining.

Rev. Maulidi and his entourage at the Alternative Mining Indaba in Cape Town

He said the meeting drew members of civil society organisations, the church and other activists from the continent, and reflected on how the resources could benefit the communities where mining activities are taking place and discussed best ways to protect Africa’s rare resources.

“It is pretty sad to note that resources in the continent are being plundered under our watch through illegal mining and the proceeds are taken by foreigners at the expense of deserving Malawians, leaving the communities they are mining in dire poverty,” Rev. Maulidi said.

He emphasized as the AACC in Malawi Ambassador, he feels this is the right time to collaborate with other stakeholders and stand together as Malawians in reminding each other the importance of protecting the country’s resources.

“Illicit mining deprives African countries, including Malawi of the revenue that would have benefitted the communities in which the mining takes place as well as the economy of the country.

“So African stakeholders decided to hold this meeting to discuss best ways we can protect our resources and to impress on our leadership to enact proper national laws against illicit mining.

“And it shouldn’t end there as on paper, the rural communities should also engaged to explain to them what the law says about mining so that they themselves can stop any illicit mining if they detect it to be not in line with the law.”

Rev. Maulidi further said such illicit mining also contributes to climate change because of deforestation that the illegal miners leave behind — thus the laws should incorporate elements of environmental protection.

He bemoaned the tendency by some government officials who aid foreigners to acquire land in the pretext of doing other businesses when in actual fact they go on to engage in illegal mining.

“Such unscrupulous foreigners applying to acquire land do know that there are minerals under it and go on to illegally mine it,” he said, thus saying there is need to pass strong laws to stop foreigners coming to Malawi in disguise of doing business without declaring that it’s to do with mining.

He, therefore, urged Malawians to be patriotic enough and safeguard the interest of the country, saying: “Let us be be watchful by not allowing people from other countries to be allocated land in the name of doing other businesses, when in actual fact they are exploiting our precious minerals.”

At the Indaba, Rev. Maulidi also presented a paper on the status of illicit mining in Malawi that, since the challenge of illegal mining is not peculiar to Malawi, there was need for Africa to speak with one voice and say no to illicit mining — which is depleting the God-given natural resources.

Taking his turn, Dr. Tinashe Gumbo — head of programmes for AACC who also attended the conference — described the gathering as a moment that provided an opportunity from Church and CSO leaders to reflect at what can be done to help in seeing how best they can deal with mining companies that don’t pay taxes and also relook at laws governing mining in the continent.

Last week, Chairperson Balaka Civil Society Organisation Network, John Bamusi was quoted as saying companies interested in mining should be guided by the 2019 Minerals and Mining Act — which stipulates how government and communities benefit from any mining activity.

In an interview with Malawi News Agency (MANA), Bamusi said: “Originally, all proceeds from mining through loyalties were going straight to the government without the area where the mining activity was taking place directly benefiting.

“However, in the new Act, the source origin is entitled to a certain percentage which directly benefits the community not only the investor.”

He had made the observation after Balaka District Council visited Kangankundi Rare Earth Mine situated at Senzani in Balaka where Lindian Resources Limited is mining the unique and rare earth minerals in the world.

Bamusi told MANA: “Lindian has done drilling to ascertain whether the quantities of minerals involved make economic sense. We are glad the company is abiding by internationally accepted ethical mining standards that also profit the local communities.”

Balaka District Council chief planning officer, Edgar Chihana told MANA that they have hosted several investors in the mining industry “but had not been honest enough and not developed any mining site”, thus they being happy that Lindian Resources is making progressive development of the Kangankundi Rare Earth Mine.

“We are particularly happy because local people are benefiting through employment, social corporate responsibility like tree planting exercises and distribution of chlorine to avert cholera,” Chihana said.

Chihana said the mine will boost the economy of the district as well as the country when fully fledged since drilling results show there is huge quantities of monazite of high quality to last over 100 years.—Additional reporting by Mike van Kamande, MANA

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