Malawi expected to be world’s 4th major niobium producer

Ministry of Mining principal secretary, Joseph Mkandawire, has confirmed that the Mineral Resources Committee (MRC) has recommended to grant Globe Metals & Mining a licence for the Kanyika Niobium Project in Mzimba and, should it come into fruition, Malawi could become the fourth major producer of niobium after Brazil, Canada and Australia, Nyasa Times has learnt.

The Kanyika Niobium Mine will become the largest mine of value after Kayelekera Uranium Mine in Karonga that for ten years run by Paladin Africa Limited (PAL) but is now being managed by Lotus Resources Limited.

Country Director Neville Huxham

Niobium is a rare shiny, white metal that is used for the production of high-temperature-resistant alloys and special stainless steels. Alloys containing niobium are used in jet engines and rockets, beams and girders for buildings and oil rigs, and oil and gas pipelines.

Globe Metals & Mining country director, Neville Huxham, also confirmed receiving formal communication from the Ministry of Mining after nine years of negotiations and waiting.

Huxham said Globe Metals & Mining—an Australia Stock Exchange-listed company—was just waiting for the licence to be duly signed and authorized by the Minister of Mining after MRC recommendation.

According to Huxham, the company will be producing 3 000 tonnes of niobium and 200 tonnes of tantalum annually with a workforce of about 1000 permanent and temporary staff once the mine becomes fully operational.

Mining expert and former minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Grain Malunga, said granting Globe Metals & Mining was beneficial as there would be economic linkages because the company as well as residents would require a lot of services.

“We need to promote these companies to start mines and encourage them to be responsible companies that will benefit the economy and the local community equally,” Malunga is quoted as saying in the local press.

Nyasa Times has learnt that Globe Metals & Mining is expected to produce high purity niobium pentoxide and tantalum pentoxide at Kanyika in Mzimba in a project that will require a capital investment of around $450 million (K367.2 billion at current exchange rate) with an initial mine life of over 20 years.

“The company is now in the process of finding financiers but we are waiting for the mining licence to start talking to them,” Huxham said, adding that the company had an exploration licence which necessitated it to extract samples but has since expired.

For about nine years, the company has been using an exploration licence and has sent several tonnes of samples to laboratories in Australia, China and South Africa for testing.

However, Huxham said once the licence is issued the company may take a minimum of three years to start actual production of niobium.

As a requisite for any listed company, last week, Globe Metals & Mining updated the Australian Stock Exchange and shareholders, on the delay by Malawi Government to issue the mining licence.

Pursuant to the Mines and Minerals Act of 2018 which became effective on September 1, 2019, the Minister of Mining is obligated to follow the recommendation of the MRC and grant the licence within 45 days, with the registrar then having five business days to notify the company and issue the licence.

However, the 45 days elapsed on July 18 2021 and in its update signed by Globe Metals & Mining managing director Alistair Stephens and company secretary, Michael Fry the company expressed ignorance on the reason for the delay.

“The company is unaware of any reason or basis to delay the grant of the licence from the Minister of Mines and have requested a formal meeting to seek clarification on matters pertaining to the application of procedures in the Mines Act,” reads part of the update.

Mkandawire said Globe Metals fulfilled the mandatory conditions in terms of checklist for the grant of the mining licence by obtaining all relevant environmental certificates in accordance with the Environmental Management Act (2016) and the Mines Act, hence; the recommendation but the delay to grant the licence was as a result of “other processes that were being looked into.

“There were administrative measures that proposed to look at other issues which are very crucial… Apparently the development agreements were not completed but are about to be completed now so I think things will be okay any time,” he said.

While confessing to have contravened the Mines and Minerals Act, Mkandawire said “that happens, we have passed the days but we will be able to grant them the licence.”

Mkandawire said currently they are finalising the development agreements, which will outline the mining’s benefit sharing.

But the project still faces resistance from the community who have filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for prospecting operations.

The community alleges that as a result of the activities of Globe Metals & Mining in the area, it has suffered gross poverty, deprivation and perpetual food insecurity.

Inkosi Mabulabo, in whose area the mine is located, said in an interview that although he had not been officially communicated about the granting of the licence, there were several outstanding issues which have not been resolved such as the disturbance allowances and the community development agreement.

“We are waiting for compensation then we can draw the development agreement failing which nothing will move because people want their compensation and this has been a thorny issue and is still in court,” Mabulabo told the local press.

The finalisation and execution of a development agreement is an important aspect of the project as it outlines the fiscal regime under which the project will operate and sets out the terms upon which the company is able to develop the minerals contained in the project including terms not otherwise required through existing regulations.

 

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Moya
Moya
3 months ago

Wake up Malawi this 4th largest producer will only be on record but the people of Malawi will still be sleeping on a hungry stomach and in poverty. Let’s scrutinize what’s in this contract for Malawians

Mulopwana
Mulopwana
3 months ago

Mining does not benefit the poor. It benefits the rich. The company is foreign. When they sale the metals payment will be made to Australia to mother company. Malawi wil get operation cost basi as its the mine is in Australia. Fosheki

Bless
Bless
3 months ago

And today the Ministry will be parting on it’s back saying it has made a milestone. Poor Malawians. 9 years but ministry personnel being promoted each and every year. VERY SAD

Pleasant
3 months ago

Just tell us what malawi will benefit otherwise we may end up having the whole process benefiting one family.

nsabwe
nsabwe
3 months ago

Tinali ndi uranium mine
Komaso miyala ma tonnes tonnes inapititsidwa Ku Canada ija. Kodi sample yo nde zinatha bwanji!
Ok tione niobium yo ngati ena sakutiphwanyila masuku pamitu APA. A maboma adzana tatuuzeni zoona

Piper
Piper
3 months ago

What’s in it for the locals and the wilder community? It must trickle down and not just to the chief executives and politicians.

Kambewa Ngozo
3 months ago

FOSEKI The mining will only benefit a few people Top government officials and party members. Malawians and the local community will benefit nothing. Zero. A good example is the Kayelekera mining. Did Malawians and the people of Karonga and Chitipa benefit? The answer is no. They end up up with the environment being contaminated. I do remember Atupele Muluzi when he was a mini Of Energy and Mining made too much noise and went to visit Kayelekera. After his visit he kept quite. His mouth was zipped. It is alleged that he was given lots of dollars. Wake up Malawi.… Read more »

Rho
Rho
3 months ago
Reply to  Kambewa Ngozo

very true if only malawians could wake up and challenge the government of these things

Banda
Banda
3 months ago

Malawi open for Business but companies need to wait 9 years and longer

Evans Mwale
Evans Mwale
3 months ago

Thats a good development for Malawi however am.worried that the past 9years samples where sent abroad…is that not a loophole that our govt is losing out.Who knows that they were samples being sent? Someone balance me real quickly on this

Chuma
Chuma
3 months ago

The minister will not sign the licence and will not communicate to the investor as why he is not signing. He breaks mines and minerals laws left and right in the name of protecting public interest. One wonders if breaking the laws is in the public interest. Reports were already sent to the president about this crazy minister long time ago. It is however not surprising that the president is not taking any action. The president is not decisive on every issue. When on every issue I mean on every issue. We are now just getting used to it. Just… Read more »

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