Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa V is expected to meet Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka next week to discuss the way forward on the prospective Kanyika niobium mine in Mzimba.
In an interview, M’mbelwa said he wants Msaka to declare the status of Globe Metals and Mining Africa (GMMA), the company that is expected to operate the mine.
“We would like the minister to tell us if GMMA will continue with the extraction or not; if they are leaving, people should settle down and live a normal life. If not, they should be compensated,” M’mbelwa said.
Communities around the mine have complained that they have been kept in the dark over compensation due to them.
The communities also want to know whether they will get the compensation in US dollars or kwacha, and the present status quo of the development agreement between government and GMMA which will give direction to the mining.
The villagers say they need to know when they will be relocated, what government is doing about the environmental impact assessment, issues of safety, the mining company’s commitment on corporate social responsibility and why the community was not involved from the inception of the mine deal which is still at exploration level.
The villagers are demanding immediate compensation, saying the coming of the mine has already brought about hunger in the area since most of them stopped cultivating while waiting for compensation and relocation.
M’mbelwa said the change of ministers in the ministry has also affected the pace at which negotiations have been moving as they have to start all over again with the current one.
GMMA senior geologist Chris Ngwena declined to respond to Weekend Nation queries, only saying that negotiations with government are ongoing.
Meanwhile, Felix Manda of Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), which is working in the area to empower the communities, said GMMA regards them as adversaries and “avoids them”.
“We have heard that the minimum a household will receive as compensation is K75 000 which is too little regarding what they have lost; most of them borrowed money anticipating movement and compensation,” Manda said.
Kanyika mine native forum chairperson Sothini Kaluwa said the locals are not productive anymore.
About 244 households surrounding the mine live in dire poverty — three years after government assessed their property for compensations and discouraged them from farming, building houses and other development activities in readiness for niobium mining.
The communities initially gave the company a March 31 deadline to explain the progress on the compensation and they threatened to force it to leave the area if it did not comply, but M’mbelwa calmed them down.
With a projected life span of 20 years and an annual output of 3 000 metric tonnes of niobium metal, the mine is expected to rake in $180 million (K50 billion) per year in revenues and employ 2 000 people.
The Kanyika mining project will be the second major mining operation in the country after the Kayelekera Uranium Mine in Karonga.
The Kanyika niobium exploration area covers an area of approximately 607sq km and will affect 244 households and 1 360 people.