Three people, one of them barely a toddler, were buried alive when the illegal mine they were working in crumbled.
News of the discovery of garnet, a semi-precious stone – cousins to rubies and raw material for rings and wrist watches, has been around for more than a month now. An ad hoc town is growing on the banks on Lilongwe River where the ‘gold’ has been discovered.
One would ordinarily think government would be interested to find out what was going on. An impromptu settlement of hundreds of people would normally attract social and health issues.
If they were not dozing on their jobs, someone somewhere should have investigated the craze around the garnet discovery. We always say the mining is illegal which means the trade in such minerals must be illegal as well.
But still the mining is going on unregulated. The market for the garnet is there that is why middlemen are parting with as much as K100,000 for a 10mg stone.
Where is government in all this? Were we waiting for people to die before we could act?
The scramble for the mysterious precious stone means people are desperate and would fall for anything that can give them a ‘quick fix’. If there is indeed a market for the precious stone government need to put in place measures to regulate it. If unregulated people are parting with as much as K100,000 for a 10mg stone it obviously means these amateur miners are being ripped off.
Atupele Muluzi, as the minister responsible, should take personal interest here and visit the area to investigate what is going on. If the mysterious buyers are ready to part with thousands of kwacha there might be wealth sitting under the banks of Lilongwe River.