The state on Thursday brought to court 20 Malawian illegal miners who were arrested in Lilongwe for mining along Nathenje river without licence.
Senior principal resident magistrate Viva Nyimba was however surprised to hear from a senior Energy ministry official that people can get a mining licence with as little as K3 000.
Nyimba blamed the government for the increased illegal mining activities in the country, saying it has failed to civic educate people that mining licences are not as expensive as some people think.
He, however, said ignorance is not defense in law.
This came to light after the first witness in the case, a deputy director in the ministry of Energy responsible for licences Gibson Nyirenda told the court that with K3 000, people can have access to a two hectare land of mining in three districts of their choice.
Nyirenda said the ministry requested the police to arrest the suspects after they failed to stop mining after warning them several times.
He said some of the illegal miners were using toxic chemicals to blast off minerals such as gold which he said was a health hazard to the people living in surrounding villages.
Nyirenda said the government discovered the minerals 40 years ago.