Let’s woo investors, revise laws later – Malawi Mining Official

Malawi cannot turn away investors in the extractive industry despite the fact that legislation in the sector is archaic and not in tandem with international trends, a Ministry of Mines official has said.

The official, Peter Chilumanga, said this during a public hearing which the Ministry of Mines held at Mzuzu Hotel on Wednesday.

The Mzuzu hearing, the third in a series of six planned across the country, sought to seek peoples’ views on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), which a company which is exploring for oil in Lake Malawi, Surestream is presenting.

Surestream GM Keith Robinson
Surestream GM Keith Robinson

The other public hearings will also be held in Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Lilongwe and Blantyre.

RPS Energy, a London based Consultancy firm in partnership with experts from the University of Malawi, compiled the ESIA which was completed in 2012 but updated in October, 2013.

“Malawi has done seismic suryeys on Lake Malawi staring in 1981/86/87, 1992/95 and the last one in 2001 with no adverse effects recorded,” said Stuart Sharp of RPS Energy.

The Malawi government awarded Surestream Petroleum, an independent, UK-based oil exploration company founded in September 2004, blocks 2 and 3 which run from Karonga to Nkhotakota.

“Currently, Malawi is guided by the 1983 Petroleum Exploration Products Act in the issuance of licences in the sector,” Chilumanga said.

He said since 2007 Malawi has been attracting several investors in the sector saying it cannot ignore them because it has no policy or compatible Act.

“It’s an old Act. But we first need to develop a policy drawing on best practices internationally in the Oil and gas sector and then work to revise the Act. That is what we have done with the Minerals Act,” he said.

Surestream Petroleum General Manager Keith Robinson, whose company has so far spend in excess of US$6 million (MK3 billion) said his company does not known whether there is oil in Lake Malawi or not.

“The purpose of the ESIA and subsequent three phase exploration programme is to find out if there is Oil,” Robinson said.

According to Joy Sibale of the Department of Environmental Affairs, after the ESIA presentation and consolidation, Surestream Petroleum will embark on Aerial Surveying and Seismic exploration followed by drilling exploration and then Oil drilling.

“The entire process may take 30 years,” she said.

Robinson agreed saying in Kenya it took them 45 years.

“It’s a long process and people need to be patient,” he said.

Recently, Chiefs in the Central region district of Dowa, which is one of Malawi’s poorest districts, said they will do all they can to ensure government puts in place means to maximise mining benefits out of the extractive industry.

The six chiefs vowed to engage both government and multi-international corporations in ways on how they can also benefit from minerals that are being extracted from their villages and land.

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