Malawi’s Kanyika Niobium Mine awaits board’s nod to proceed

The fate of the much awaited Kanyika Niobium Project in Mzimba district northernMalawi lies in the hands of the board of directors of the parent company  Globe Metals and Mining  which will meet in February 2013 to review the project after five years of ground work.

Globe is currently carrying out a definitive feasibility study (DFS) on the Project, which is planned for completion in December 2012.

The company therefore expects to be able to submit an application for a mining licence for the Project well before the expiry of the current exploration licence, which ends in December 2013.

“The decision mainly will centre on the Feasibility study which we have already done because it has major economic implications and also on whether the Malawi government has approved our Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report,” Globe Metals and Mining Country Manager Chrispine Ngwena said.

Kanyika mine

Once operational, the Kanyika Niobium Mine will be the first of its kind in Africa but the fourth in the world after two other mines in Brazil and one in Canada.

With a projected life span of 20 years and an annual output of 3000 metric tonnes of Niobium metal, the Mine is expected to rake in US$180million (MK50 billion) per year in revenues and employ 2000 Malawians in the construction phase and 800 operations start.

But should the board, which comprises of the Chinese with a major stake and the Australians, decide other wise it means the company will have registered a US$150 million (MK48 billion) loss.

Ferro-niobium is a critical additive in the production of sophisticated steels.

The Kanyika Mining project will be the second major mining operation in the country after the Kayelekera Uranium Mine in Karonga district.

Ngwena disclosed this during a public sensitization meeting of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report the company complied and submitted to the Malawi government.
Ngwena said the (EIA) report is one of the prerequisite for the company to be granted a Mining Licence.

Principal Environmental Officer in the department of Environmental Affairs Allan Kazipute said government will scrutinize the report saying if it finds it not feasible then mining cannot go ahead.

“The good thing about the Kanyika Niobium Mining project is that it is based on the omissions and commissions derived from the Malawi government’s experience with the Kayelekera Uranium mine in Karonga district. The other thing is that we now have a law in place,”
Kazipute said.

But Kazipute expressed worry that people not concerned about how the mining project may affect the environment but concentrated on the socio-economic benefit they might derive from the Mine.

According to village headman Moffat Phiri people have started splitting villages in anticipation of the compensation that the Mine will pay to those in the face off area.

The Kanyika Niobium exploration area covers an area of approximately 607sq km and will affect 244 households and 1360 people.

“The area is experiencing many local immigrants who think the mine is a panacea to their economic ills,” Phiri said.

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