Story Contributed by Marcel Chimwala, Mining & Trade Review
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In the past, rural communities in mining areas lived in the dark on the mining projects taking place in their areas as the government and mining companies never included them in decision making on the projects.
Now it is a different story thanks to the wound of magic from the Mining Governance Project otherwise known as Tonse Tipindule implemented by the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), Action Aid and CEPA and other non-governmental organizations with funding from the Tilitonse Fund.
NCA Malawi’s Economic Justice Coordinator, Thokozani Mapemba, explains that under its first phase which is now being completed, the Mining Governance Project has demonstrated considerable success in promoting increased inclusion, accountability, and responsiveness in Malawi’s Mining Sector.
The project has empowered rural communities to have a voice on exploration and mining projects that various companies are carrying out in their respective areas, says Mapemba.
The project has been implemented in ten districts of Malawi namely; Karonga, Mzimba, Chitipa, Ntcheu, Dowa, Balaka, Mangochi, Mwanza, Mulanje and Phalombe since 2013.
In order to achieve its goal, the project had the following four outputs: policy, institutional and legal framework reforms initiated in the mining sector; a comprehensive stakeholder engagement framework established at community level; civil society organizations mobilized and supported to effectively support affected communities and engage the mining sector and government; and improved capacity among coalition partners to effectively implement and monitor interventions in the mining sector.
NCA’s partners in the project include; Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM), Church and Society project of Livingstonia Synod, and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national office.
Mapemba says the project endeavoured to influence reforms in the policy, legal and institutional environment through advocacy initiatives at local and national level and attempts were made to work with other players in the same thematic area or sector to avoid duplication of efforts, ensure proper coordination and effectiveness.
He explains that recognizing that some policy level reforms will require more time, the project primarily focused on initiating reforms aimed at ensuring increased transparency, accountability and mutual responsiveness in the sector by engaging key stakeholders in government and private sector.
Through this project and additional input from joint CSOs initiative, there is now in place a new draft Mines and Minerals Bill that is being assessed before it is tabled before parliament for deliberation. The involvement of Tonse Tipundule partners was conspicuous and systematic as issues of concern were already generated and consolidated through wider consultations in all the 10 districts. This process is currently on going.
Mapemba reports that some activities under the project placed emphasis on establishing a more structured engagement framework between Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), communities, government and mining investors.
He says: Community Action Groups (CAGs) have been established in the 10 districts of operation and an informal coalition of CSOs at national level has been operational under this project which is involved in dialoguing with mining companies, parliamentary committees and government ministries on mining issues.
Realizing that there might be potential resistance on some reforms among mining investors, the project at all stages involved responsible government departments to bring about consensus and a win-win situation. The stakeholder engagement framework was designed to strengthen community structures to be able to negotiate with and engage mining investors and government on issues affecting them. To this effect a capacity building training tool kit on mining governance was developed and implementing partners were trained on how to use it with members of Community Action Groups (CAGs) and this process was further strengthened by mapping key players at community, district and national levels.
As a result, dialogue platforms were erected at community and district levels in so doing creating spaces of interaction between mining investors, government officials and communities on issues arising from the mining processes.
Mapemba explains that to address the weak coordination and collaboration among CSOs, the project implemented a set of activities aimed at bringing about consensus, increased information sharing on best approaches and advocacy strategies.
In this regard, efforts entailed working closely with key CSO networks and platforms like Natural Resources Justice Network, Centre for Environmental Policy Action (CEPA), Citizens for Justice Karonga, Mzuzu CCJP and Action Aid on mining to avoid duplication and unnecessary competition in the sector.
He reports that a national alternative Mining Indaba was organised jointly by the CSOs in Lilongwe in 2014, the first ever in the history of Malawi in bringing different key stakeholders in the mining sector to dialogue on emerging issues. Through the Mining Indaba, community members, CSOs and other stakeholders were ably provided with a platform to engage.
The project also supported and mobilized civil society organizations to effectively support affected communities and engage the mining sector and government.
- Mines and Minerals Act
CCJP in their report appealed to government to trim powers of the Minister of Mining. The government has responded to these issues, which is evident by the sections that have been included in the draft Mines and Minerals Act where the powers of the minister have been reduced. Other sections include section 304 -dealing with community engagement, section 173-dealing with resettlement, section 174-dealing with community development plans and other sections that are aimed at enhancing accountability and transparency.
- Kanyika Community engagement
Kanyika mine native forum petitioned the Minister responsible for mining summoning him to visit the community so that they can engage with him on challenges that the community was facing due to mining. The community further conducted a demonstration and presented a petition to the District Commissioner accusing government of making promises it never fulfils. They also took the government to task for not coming into the open on whether mining would take place at Kanyika or not .The community demanded answers because they were left in suspense and could not proceed with any activity including agriculture as they feared they would be evacuated at any time.
The project under the above activities also empowered the communities to demand developmental projects from mining investors as part of corporate social responsibilities.
- Communities benefiting from mining
Working with QMAM, Njereza Community in Mangochi managed to engage with Cement Products Limited (CPL), a company exploring for limestone for cement production, to initiate projects that will benefit the community. In response, the company has built a school block, maintained roads, and constructed a borehole at John Sawadi Village in the area. The company has further pledged to continue fulfilling other development pledges it made to the communities.
- Communities fairly compensated
Through community action groups in T/A Tsikulamowa in Ntcheu, two community members managed to receive compensation worthy K4, 500, 000 from TPT Investment and JK Investment after losing land to the mining companies. Selina Jemusi got K2, 500, 000 from TPT Investment while Joseph Kenati Mbewe got K2, 000, 000 from JK Investment. Both companies are mining limestone in the area.
- Balaka lime companies respond to CSR Queries
Ng’onga area is blessed with raw materials for limeproduction surrounding the Chenkumbi Hill, 15 kilometers away from Balaka Township. Many lime producers such as Zalewa Lime Company (ZALCO), Balaka Lime Works, Intact Lime Company and JK Investment started their operations in the area in the early 1980s. However, to the community’s surprise, all of the mining companies have been neglecting to respond to the community needs in form of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Since the commencement of the Tonse Tipindule project in September, 2013, the Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM) has been mounting advocacy in mining issues in the area together with other stakeholders such as the Ng’onga Community Action Group (CAG), Balaka District Commissioner, Director of Planning and Development (DPD), Environmental, Land, Labour, Community Developmental officers as well as other civil society organizations (CSO) like Mining Network to bring about change for a win-win situation between the community and mining investors.
In May 2015, QMAM project team organized a local mining indaba at Chiyendausiku Hall in the district where communities discussed common issues and developed joint action plans. The indaba attracted five mining investors from the district including ZALCO. The Balaka community Developmental officer, the DPD and the Chiyendausiku Ward Councilor pleaded with the investors to work with the community in all mining activities happening around Chenkumbi Hill.
The result is that the Ng’onga community is now all smiles at ZALCO’s response through various CSR programmes. For instance, ZALCO has provided two shelters for a bus stand at Chikombera in the area. It has also maintained the dilapidated bridge that connects Dzimbalame and Chilumba areas. Besides, ZALCO is providing assistance in the construction of Chiyendausiku Zone Secondary School through transportation of bricks and sand from Chimwarire and Manjawira areas, 50km to 60km away from Chiyendausiku. As a good gesture towards ZALCO from the community, Group Village Head (GVH) Ng’onga has promised to help ZALCO acquire a larger part of Chenkumbi hill to expand its mining operations.
- Ntcheu Community engages Mota-Engil on gold exploration project
Courtesy of the Tonse Tipindule Project, residents of Namisu and Senzani areas in Ntcheu District engaged Mota-Engil, a Portuguese multinational exploring for gold in the area after being mobilized by QMAM. Besides requesting for CSR projects from the company, the community asked the company to take care of theenvironment as it has drilled big holes in the area as part of the exploration. Certainly, all these cases studies bear testimony that rural communities in Malawi have now a voice on mining projects taking place in their areas thanks to Tonse Tipindule Project