Posted on: August 29, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

Civic groups in Karonga, Malawi north, have petitioned ministers of mining, energy, environment and labour for semi nationalised mining sheq compliance data.

The Karonga Natural Resources Justice Committee (KANRJC), which submitted the petition, was formed to oversee natural resources and development issues that affect the general public in Karonga, using provisions in Malawi’s environmental laws that guarantee citizen access to information on safety, health, environmental, property and labour rights, reports Allafrica.com.

Malawians want information on mining operations and incidents at Kayelekera Uranium Mine and Mwabulambo Coal Mine. They are concerned about “compliance with environmental and safety standards at these mines, land allocation for mining without proper compensation being provided to dispossessed land owners, and delivery on undertakings by mining companies in terms of development agreements with the government of Malawi”.

Malawi owns 15% in uranium mine

Kayelekera Uranium Mine is the first uranium mine in Malawi. It is operated by Australian company Paladin Energy. Malawi had offered the company reduced corporate and rent tax, in exchange for a 15% stake in the project. Some web and social media are reporting that civic activists have received death threats.

Uranium mining sheq “risks are increased where activities are not strictly regulated, managed and monitored”, said KANRJC.

Mwabulambo Coal Mine is operated by Eland Coal Mining Company. Villagers near the mine complain of health effects, and land allocated the mine with poor compensation for families forced to relocate.

Luke Tembo, Information Officer of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), which forms part of KANRJC, said they “recognise that mining can contribute significantly to Malawi’s development and poverty alleviation, but all Malawians should benefit from these operations. Mining can not happen at the cost of peoples’ health, land, and livelihoods”.

Malawian civil groups bare legal teeth

KANRJC also comprises Uraha Foundation, Citizens for Justice, Young Politicians Union, Karonga Women Forum, Focus, Ngerenge Community Based Organisation and two local village headmen. The petition is supported by Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) in partnership with Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), whose right to information program uses litigation to develop the right of access to information in Africa.

The petition was filed in terms of the Environmental Management Act and the Constitution which allow for access to both general and specific environmental information held by state organs. The petition seeks various documents relating to:
* State environmental and safety inspections and programmes
* Mining development agreements with the government
* Land allocated to mining activities according to licences
* Amounts allocated and disbursed for relocation and compensation of displaced villagers
* State of human health and conditions of human life affected by mining operations.

Current large-scale protests in Malawi drew demonstrators voicing discontent at the state’s inability to ensure that average Malawians could provide for their living and health costs. Fuel shortage, decreased income and a rise in food costs are primary concerns.

Says Tembo: “With the government looking to make mining a chief forex earner for Malawi, transparency and accountability in these operations is needed from the beginning. -Allafrica.com

PHOTO; Luke Tembo, information officer of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), which forms part of Malawi’s civic activist group, KANRJC. Some activists have received death threats.

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