Paladin woes: Malawi gov’t reject licence extension, illegal lags at Kayerekera mine

Uranium miner, Paladin is sailing in troubled waters following Malawi government rejection of its application made by for an Exclusive Prospective Licence extension and the company has of late been dominating headlines for wrong reasons.

Paladin applied to Malawi government for an extension of EPL 0168, EPL 0169 and EPL 0170 beyond seven years but government rebuffed the miner, Principals Secretary in Ministry of Mining Leonard Kalindekafe confirmed.

Kalindekafe said there are “other potential investors.”

And after being in the news for  influencing the arrests of  five of its employees at Kayelekera Uranium Mine in Karonga for allegedly threatening  to damage the mine after management reportedly refused to give them the demanded salary percentage increase, Paladin is in the news again, this  time over  foreigners working without proper immigration clearance.

According to published reports, there are foreignors working full-time Paladin’s mine in Karonga without temporary employment permits (TEPs).

Paladin Africa boss Greg Walker: Paladin employing foreignors illegally while retrenching Malawians
Paladin Africa boss Greg Walker: Paladin employing foreignors illegally while retrenching Malawians

Some of the foreign lags are reportedly using temporary residence permits (TRPs) that have outlived their lifespan whereas others are still at the mine despite the Immigration Department rejecting their permit applications.

An official record of 98 expatriates at Kayelekera shows that some of them have used TRPs for well over two years now despite the Immigration Department stating that a TRP, which lasts six months, can only be renewed once.

It has also been revealed that some foreigners are in menial jobs such as welding, fitting, plumbing, secretarial, mechanics, building, security, carpentry and catering, which locals can ably do—contrary to legal provisions of the land.

This is also in contravention of the agreement Paladin signed with Malawi Government prior to mining kick-off.

Among other things, the agreement states that the Australian company should employ foreigners only if it cannot get local skilled labour.

According to the reports, Paladin has retrenched Malawians to bring in expatriates from South Africa and Australia.

A national Sunday paper reported that Paladin retrenched Mulinda Chawinga who worked as a diesel mechanic and replaced him with Andrew van der Merwe.

Charlie Croft  was meant to leave at the end of his contract, but when Paladin retrenched fitter Chabuka Kamwendo, Croft took up the position, thereby extending his stay in Malawi.

Chef Louise Phiri was retrenched only to be replaced by expatriate Laurent Mithieu.

McDonald Jere, who worked as warehouse coordinator and an understudy of Alistair Barbour, who heads that section, was retrenched and Jere’s former subordinate Ben Coetzee took charge.

Immigration spokesperson Martha Sanyala-Gonondo  acknowledging that TRPs have a six-month lifespan only renewable once— meaning they can only be used for 12 months.

“The chief immigration officer has authority to allow key personnel to start work while their permits are under process. Much as the department wishes to have all foreigners to have work permits before they take up employment posts in Malawi, it is not always possible because of the bureaucracy that exists within the system which leads to delays in issuing the permits,” Gonondo is quoted in the press.

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