Karonga chief issue stern warning to miners

Group Village Headman Mesiya in the traditional authority Kilupula, in northern district of Karonga has issued stern warning to Eland Coal Mining Limited which is expected to start coal mining activities in his area that they risk being chased out of his area should they fail to live by contents of the newly signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) on mining.

He told Nyasa Times after signing the MOU that he still has reservations on the document which he said was forced into signing because no one was willing to push for the response to the concerns he was raising during the discussions prior to the signing of the MOU.

Spokesperson for the mining company Mayamiko Mwinjiro said during the meeting that company will make sure to take care of the welfare of the communities surrounding the mine.

“We are going to build modern houses for people who will be reallocated. We will build a two school blocks and two teachers’ houses. In addition to that we will have a clinic in the village as part of our social and corporate responsibility so that we should not be the only ones to benefit from the mine but the surrounding communities as well,” said Mwinjiro.

But chief Mesiya said the promises left a lot of questions unanswered.

Biziwick Kaswaswa.. Director of Mining convicing the chiefs, on the importance of coal mining
Biziwick Kaswaswa.. Director of Mining convicing the chiefs, on the importance of coal mining

“I wanted to know which will start first between the mining or building of the houses because we are poor and people don’t know where to go because the MOU means these people can start their job now but we don’t know where we will be allocated,” he said.

He said he fears that this might lead to miserable life for his subjects.

“We are yet to be allocated land to stay and as a chief who is supposed to lead the reallocation drive have no idea of where my people will be reallocated. I don’t even know what I am going to do because people will obviously not understand me on what I have done. I fear about tomorrow when the same people will be arrogant if they will not fulfill what they have said because this is just on the paper,” worried Mesiya.

The chief also said he is very much worried with the machine which they want to start mining with, saying his area is a disaster prone area and earthquake might happen anytime.

“I once quelled with these people when they said want to start mining with Auger machine which will be mining the coal under the sand and we will be on top.  To us that is a dangerous weapon that can easily cause natural disaster and I am not going to allow them to start mining with their thing though I have signed the MOU with them. Although they are saying it is a good machine but to me it is not,” said Mesiya.

He appealed to the miners that they should stick to their promise.

“I will just watch and see but if a year will pass without seeing these people doing what they have promised I will take an action. I will never trust anyone from the district council or what they call “human rights activists” because they are the people who were coming to convince us to allow the mining but we can do without them,” said Mesiya.

The Eland Coal Mining Company had started its activities in the area soon after being granted a license in 2006 but was halted due to misunderstanding with the surrounding communities who said the miners were in their area without procedures.

Karonga District Commissioner Emmanuel Bambe said he was happy with signing of the MOU.

“I am very happy that we have finally signed a memorandum of understanding with our investors after the villagers had earlier refused to let the investor to start mining activities in their area. At the beginning we thought these villages were just being rude but now we have seen that they have introduced a good thing for us which will be followed on any investor for the benefit of the surrounding communities,” said Bambe.

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