The High Court of Malawi has awarded South African geologist Michael Saner $100 million (about K69.5 billion) as compensation for the deliberate acts of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs in denying him the renewal of his Exclusive Prospecting Licence (EPL).
The ministry was also faulted for disobeying a court judgement.
In his March 15 2016 judgement, High Court Judge Rowland Mbvundula said the decision was arrived at considering that any difficulties the process of assessing damages suffered were created entirely by the ministry (now known as the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining) in that it has prevented feasibility studies from being undertaken.
“It would not, therefore, lie in the mouth of the transgressor to assert that a particular level of damages is improper when the ministry kept the applicant [Saner] away from his mining area.
“This court is satisfied that the applicant’s submissions encompass the correct exposition of the legal principles applicable to the case,” reads part of the ruling to a judicial review of the ministry’s decision to refuse renewing Saner’s EPL.
The matter dates back to 2000 when the ministry granted Saner the EPL for Kangankude Mine in Balaka. The EPL was issued on March 15 2000 for an initial period of three years and it was renewable.
On November 25 2002, Saner submitted an application to renew his EPL and in compliance with the Mines and Minerals Act, the application was submitted three months prior to the expiry date of the EPL but the ministry did not respond to Saner’s renewal application and no grounds were given.
The ministry only gave the reasons for non-renewal in May 2003 after inquiry and officers in the ministry told Saner that the EPL would be renewed but it was not.
However, the ministry issued the mining licence to a Malawian furniture entrepreneur, Tony Patel, in May 2003 although Patel never held an EPL. Three years later Patel sold the “rights” to Lynas Corporation Limited, an Australian publicly-listed company, according to court documents.
In 2006, Saner obtained a court order which required that the EPL be renewed but it was not renewed, a development which made Saner unable to move to the exploitation phase which was the main objective of the EPL and in 2010, Saner obtained an injunction which prohibits the granting of a mineral licence of Kangankunde to any other party other than him.