In the wake of tension between prospective mining investors and surrounding communities, the Malawi Chamber of Mines has warned against myths and wrong perceptions it said fuel unmet expectations against mining companies.
The chamber’s chairperson, Dean Lungu, expressed the sentiments in Lilongwe yesterday during the launch of the first Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI).
Lungu, while welcoming calls for increased transparency among companies operating in the sector, further warned against wrong perceptions held by many sectors of the Malawian society.
He cited allegations against mining companies that, among others, some of them were exporting samples during exploration ventures. He said mining projects are complex and that most of the allegations are based on lack of knowledge.
Said Lungu: “The mining sector has always been looked at with a suspicious eye. There are certain fallacies and myths which have been entrenched in our society. The Chamber of Mines is working hard to promote dialogue between all stakeholders. We believe there are solutions at the end of the day.”
But in an interview later yesterday, Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN) chairperson Kossam Munthali, whose network advocates that mining activities should benefit surrounding communities, blamed the myths on lack of openness by both government and the private sector involved in mining.
He said lack of information leaves communities around mines and civil society organisations guessing.
Said Munthali: “There is a big gap between duty-bearers and citizens. When people do not have information, they start guessing. It is not a blame game, but let us go back to the drawing board and come up with solutions.
“Of course, when people notice that mining ventures are taking samples for years, then they have a right to raise questions. The case of Kanyika where people have been displaced for years but nothing is happening on the ground raises the stakes.”
And speaking earlier, Munthali, who represents civil society organisations on the multi-stakeholder group on EITI, called upon speedy updating of the mining laws.
He said the report launched yesterday would help his network and the wider civil society in conducting oversight roles as major stakeholders in the sector to continue playing their roles of being agents of change and social mobilisation, public education and enlightenment, whistle blowing, feedback to constituencies and effective participation.
But Munthali was optimistic that the country is on the right path towards improving the environment for accountability and transparency in the extractive industry. n