Controversial mining project in Malawi/ Projet minier controversé au Malawi

Selon Mineweb (voir texte anglais plus bas), un projet d’exploitation d’une mine d’uranium au Malawi par l’entreprise australienne Paladin (l’entreprise est aussi enregistrée à la bourse de Toronto), suscite la controverse. La nouvelle est reprise par Armees.com (oui, oui, armees.com):

Le président du Malawi Bingu Wa Mutharika a indiqué […] que son pays était prêt à jouer un rôle essentiel dans l’énergie nucléaire de l’Afrique une fois qu’il aura commencé à exploiter ses mines d’uranium.

“Dans les dix prochaines années, le Malawi va devenir l’un principaux producteurs d’uranium en Afrique, un important composant de l’énergie nucléaire”, a déclaré M. Mutharika

[…]

Le Malawi dispose de 11 000 tonnes d’uranium, ce qui devrait rapporter au pays 200 millions de dollars chaque année pendant les dix ans d’exploitation de la mine. Les gisements d’uranium devraient être exploités à partir de 2008 par une compagnie australienne, Paladin Resource.

Les projets du gouvernement concernant l’exploitation de l’uranium ont été fortement critiqués par des groupes de la société civile affirmant que les personnes habitant à proximité de la mine seraient exposées aux dangers de la radiation et des produits chimiques utilisés pour la séparation des minerais. Le gouvernement a néanmoins écarté les arguments de la société civile, affirmant que les précautions nécessaires avaient été prises pour éviter tout risque pour les habitants de la région et l’environnement.

Il est vrai, selon Mineweb, que l’évaluation d’impacts environnementaux de Paladin semble avoir été bâclée et que la population risque de pâtir de l’exploitation de la mine.

Le projet est situé au Nord du pays sur le site de Kayelekera (voir carte ci-bas qui indique les projets de mines d’uranium de Paladin):

Paladins projects

Paladin indique d’ailleurs que l’uranium extrait au Malawi et dans une autre mine de Namibie (Langer Heinrich) sera exporté au États-Unis, en France, au Royaume-Uni au Japon et en Chine. La mine de Kayelekera, à 40 km de la ville de Karonga (33 400 habitants), produira 3.7 millions de livres d’oxyde d’uranium pendant 11 ans à partir de septembre 2008, selon Paladin. Malgré son évaluation environnementale bâclée qui risque de menacer la vie des habitants des environs l’entreprise aura néanmoins le moyen d’investir 185 millions de dollars US pour ouvrir la mine… Des ONG essaient donc de stopper le projet, dont la Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (voir texte de Mineweb, en anglais)

According to Mineweb, a controversial mining project involving the opening of a uranium mine in Malawi by the australian company Paladin (the company is also listed at the Toronto Stock Exchange) is taking place:

Now that Paladin has received its license to commence operations for its Kayerekera uranium project from the Malawi Government, a group of NGOs plans to go to court to try and halt the development.

After being swayed by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report presented to it by dual listed Paladin Resource Limited (ASX, TSX:PDN) for its Kayerekera Uranium Project in northern Malawi, the Malawi government has finally given the miner license to kick-start the project, which will become the country’s second forex earner after tobacco.

However Paladin must brace itself for tough times ahead as a group of non-governmental organizations has gone to court to seek an injunction stopping the company from going ahead with its plans to start mining uranium, saying the EIA report was half-baked as it did not address the negative impact of uranium mining on the people.

“There are shortfalls highlighted in the EIA report to which government has not responded – for instance issues of protecting citizen’s rights and health,” John Chawinga of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), one of the organizations that have gone to court, told the local press. “The citizens have complained but government is negligent that’s why we want to try the courts so that they help us resolve this.”

But not only does Paladin have the support of the Malawi government in the project but also chiefs surrounding the mine. One of the senior chiefs there, Chief Karonga says he sees no reason why the NGOs should stop the implementation of the project. He said some organizations have taken advantage of Paladin’s project in this district that borders Tanzania to become famous.

Concurring with the chief, Malawi’s Minister of Energy and Mining Henry Chimunthu Banda said government followed all the procedures before the mining company was granted a license. He said the country’s Environmental Management Act of 1996 stipulates that a developer will carry out an EIA and submit its report to government besides displaying it for public perusal.

“Thereafter, the people have to submit their comments to the Director of Environmental Affairs who compiles the same and discusses with the developer,” Banda told the media yesterday. “All this was done and we solicited experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to which Malawi is a Member, who recommended that teams of experts should conduct baseline surveys before Paladin goes full throttle into its operations.”

He added that Malawi’s National Council for Environment went through the submissions and approved the EIA report.

In its brief statement released April 3 on the Kayerekera project, Paladin said the EIA approval for the Kayerekera Project clears a major pre-requisite for the Minister for Energy and Mines and to now finalise his consideration on the grant of a Mining License for the project – the license was finally granted last week.

The granting of the license defies another call by the country’s legislatures who last month, during the sitting of Parliament, asked government not to rush into giving the Australian based company license to mine uranium saying government should negotiate with the company to raise Malawi’s stakes in the company currently pegged at 15 percent.

Paladin and the Malawi government had agreed that 15 percent of carried equity in the project will be transferred to the Malawi government in return for a reduced regime of the corporate tax from 30 percent to 27.5 percent and a reduced rent tax from 10 percent to zero.

The map above shows where the project is located. We can see that Paladin exploits another mine in Namibia (Langer Heinrich). According to the Namibian economist:

uranium oxide from both the Malawi and Namibia mines would be exported to uranium enrichment plants in the United States, Japan, France, United Kingdom and China.

[…]

The Kayelekera project is located in northern Malawi, 40 kilometres west of the town of Karonga [33 400 inhabitants].

[…]

The mine is expected to start producing uranium oxide in September next year [2008] exporting 3.7 million pounds of uranium oxide every year. The mine will have a lifespan of 11 years, said Borshoff. Paladin Resources will spend US$185 million to develop the mine.

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7 thoughts on “Controversial mining project in Malawi/ Projet minier controversé au Malawi

  1. Moussa
    You are fast. I will forward the batch of material I have collected on Paladin so we can bring it up in the context of the CSR Report.
    Doug

  2. The discovery of Uranium in kayerekera has to come with its associates, no matter what.There is to be a boost in the econom,y of Malawi, employment to locals,under the government’s control to the investor.The University of Malawi has been producing graduates in Atomic, Nuclear physics and crystallography under well qualified lecturers and Professors. These have been looked down at for a long time as they’ve wasted such important knowledge resouces by going into irrelevant fields of work. Many of these graduates have also gone out of the country to look for suitable jobs to what they studied at college.
    In this way, as the university education in malai is LARGELY government sponsored, Malawi has accounted losses inbasic human and financial resources to other countries like South Africa, Zambia only to mention but afew.
    There is a saying in chichewa, a language in malawi, that goes “walira mvula walira matope” literally meaning’he who cries out for rain, cries out for mud as well’.Besides offering such values and others I haven’t written down, The project is to let atleat one life suffer.This is nothing like a prophesy but I’m giving out what is on the ground to be expected by any Nuclear scientist.I am not afraid but very much concerned that the dangers I knew to be experienced by some other country I needed to consult an ATLAS to locate are now very likely to be the first thing that a some local person is tothink of early in the morning when the cock crows outside.
    Uranium has a potential to give out lots lots of high energy packets that are as strong as being able to penetrate wood,a stone and I’m afraid to mention your skin as well, to put it all in very simple terms.May people be civic educated on these dangers and how they can contain them IF POSSIBLE.
    -ANDREW GLORY MTEWA,Physics student. Uni. of Malawi.

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  4. Kayerekera uranium mine has just been officially oppenned in Karonga district of northern malawi. This as I already said in 2007, has alot of implications, both good and bad. I choose to expect more of the good things from the mine. Our GDP is surely to increase. Malawi is already the Number 2 world’s fastest growing economy with just a drastic improvement on last 3 to 4 years’ agricultural products.
    The mine should surely give us much more than we think.
    in two weeks time (19th may), malawi is going to her 4th general elections.
    keeping in mind what a mine may mean to some, ……..let the kayerekera mine be a blessing to malawi and not a curse….
    Boosting the economy….boosting the radio-science community of africa and beyond.
    Andrew glory mtewa

    1. Going the mining-age? Malawi, currently has this great potential to be one of the large producers of ores. Uranium in Kayerekera has surely increased our GDP, but, livilihood in the district of Karonga, where the mine is sutuated has gone high at a high rate. Simple basic needs have gone expensive following the ‘relatively’ high pay that the senior miners get.
      And recently, the debatable earthquakes, our geologists can tells us better. Not sure if the mine has any influence. Malawi has now bulks of ores like gold, copper that extends from zambia, coal, and the like…e just can’t manage to focus on these right now, but hope once the feasibility is confirmed, we will surely mine and increase our living standards.
      May God bless Malawi even more!!!!

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