Mining laws silent on corporate responsibility

Mining sector commentators have faulted the silence of mining company’s corporate social responsibility (CRS) initiatives in the country’s laws governing the industry.

The commentators, who include Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national secretary Chris Chisoni and former Minister of Energy and Mining Grain Malunga, faulted the mining laws when they spoke in Lilongwe on Wednesday on the sideline of a three-day mining indaba jointly organised by Actionaid, Norwegian Church Aid, Citizens for Justice, Tilitonse Fund and Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy.

There is no legal framework on corporate social responsibility for mining companies
There is no legal framework on corporate social responsibility for mining companies

“Currently, there is no legal framework on corporate social responsibility. For example, you see on television a company donating two bags of beans to a community where it is doing some mining works. But after asking the beneficiaries, you will find that the communities never asked for beans and have their own development needs. We need proper guidelines on this,” said Chisoni, who was one of the presenters at the indaba.

He shared experiences from a civil society organisation perspective.

Currently, Malawi’s main piece of legislation that governs the mining sector is the Mines and Minerals Act of 1981, which is under review.

The Act is supported by the Petroleum Production and Exporting Act of 1983 and the Explosives Act of 1968.

The industry is also regulated by the Mines and Minerals Policy of 2013 and the Environmental Management Policy of 2002.

“Access to potable water remains a challenge in places where most foreign mining companies are doing their mining activities. In some of these areas, communities are as they were in the days of Adam and Eve,” said Chisoni.

He warned that without clear guidelines on CSR in the mining sector, Malawi is leaving to chance important components that could allow the country to develop socially and economically.

Chisoni said CCJP knows of communities where cement production is currently taking place but residents there travel some 100 kilometres to access the product at an exorbitant price.

“We know companies here in Malawi who are involved in mining and that have even made communities poorer than before their mining activities. The issue is that the markets must be controlled by the government so that citizens benefit,” said Chisoni, who did not name the companies.

On his part, Malunga agreed with concerns raised by Chisoni, saying government needs to swiftly move towards formulating CSR guidelines to safeguard the interest of people living in places where mining activities are taking place.

In an interview on Wednesday, spokesperson in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Levy Undi, said as it is now, not many countries have guidelines on mining laws because mining laws in those countries already address issues on CSR.



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