By Blackson Mkupatira, MANA
Akatswiri Mineral Resources (AMR), a Malawian company under Akatswiri Holdings Limited (AHL) has lodged an application to government for an exploration license to develop and operated a rare earth elements (REE) mine on Chambe Basin situated on Mulanje Mountain.
Speaking during a consultative meeting with Mulanje District Executive Committee (DEC) AHL Chief Executive Officer, Hilton Banda, said once given a go ahead, the project will have significant social-economic benefits at both district and national level.
He said: “When we have the license we will conduct geological mapping, surveying and sampling of REE among other things. Some of these elements are; Dysprosium, Lithium, Cerium and Nickel and can be used in developing modern high technologies like hybrid vehicles, cell phones, televisions and military equipment.”
However, Banda said, before the license was issued they have been advised to meet all relevant stakeholders at district and national level to let them appreciate the project’s environmental and social impact.
“This is why we are here, at national level we are also meeting line ministries and environmental organizations. Afterwards, we will go to the communities to sensitize them and consult more for smooth operations,” he said.
Banda disclosed that after the three year exploration stage is complete, and elements found, the company will apply for mining license that will cover an area of about 128 square kilometers on the mountain.
“Once we reach this stage the community will be at the receiving end of the project’s social responsibilities. We will help in rehabilitation of roads, schools and health centres and maximize employment of local people particularly for the unskilled labour force.
“At national level, there will be generation of public revenue through taxes, fees and foreign exchange, creation of job opportunities and transfer of skills to local communities,” he added.
He assured of the company’s compliance with international standards for environmental management and rehabilitation in ensuring that there is no harm to the environment and nature in general during all stages of implementation of the project.
In his remarks, Mulanje District Forestry Officer, Eric Mbingwani, welcomed the project but advised the company to adhere to laws and policies that relates to the mountain saying if given a license they will be operating in a protected area.
He also advised the company to work in close relationship with surrounding communities and Citizens for the Protection of Mulanje Mountain to avoid disagreements and conflicts that may arise due to misunderstandings.
“Work with them from the onset of the project and keep them updated on every single step of the way,” he said.
Mulanje District Water Development Officer, Edwin Mchirikizo, called on the need for collaboration saying there are many stakeholders operating in the area the company has shown interest.
“We have the Southern Region Water Board (SRWB) supplying safe water to the people of Mulanje and surrounding districts of Thyolo and Blantyre from the same region.
“We also have Mulanje Mountain Conversation Trust working to preserve the mountain biosphere. Make sure you are working with them and testing the waters regularly to avoid contamination,” he said.