Malawi rights watchdog, Catholic Church, on Uranium mine

uranium_miner_paladin_energy.jpgUranium Miner - Paladin Energy Malawi's Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace has accused Australian-based uranium miner Paladin Energy of back tracking on pledges to the people of the Karonga region where it operates the Kayel

The commission, a human rights arm of the Roman Catholic Church, has
called for a meeting with the miners and traditional chiefs after
accusing the energy company of not doing enough to protect water
sources from uranium deposits.

The group fears the deposits could pollute Lake Malawi, one of Africa’s
fresh water areas and the third largest lake on the continent. And the
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has called for the
review of all mining agreements including reviewing of the whole mining
tax regime.

President Bingu wa Mutharika on February 17 commissioned the uranium mine at Kayelekera in Karonga.

We are aware that Malawi still lacks appropriate policy and legal
framework for mining and handling of radioactive materials like
uranium, although government has taken further steps in coming up with
a reviewed legislation.

Since this is only the beginning of large scale mining operations in
Malawi, we at CHRR hope that in future proper procedures will need to
be followed in granting mining licenses to prospective mining
companies, said CHRR head Undule Mwakasungula in a media statement
e-mailed to Nyasa Times.

Mwakasungula said CHRR applauds the Mutharika administration for
displaying strong political will to promote mining ventures in the
country also hailed the government for creating a favourable
environment for foreign investors such as Paladin (Africa) Limited to
come and invest in extractive industry which has not been exploited for
a long period of time.

Kayelekera uranium mining project is expected to earn the country about US$200 million a year.

We at CHRR take note that while this is commendable, we call on the
current government and any incoming government after the May19 polls,
to ensure that the revenue realised from this project are channelled
into the country's long-term development programmes for the benefit of
Malawians, said the rights campaigners.

The rights group pointed out that the ultimate aim should be to ensure
that people of Malawi benefit from their mineral wealth without looking
at regions or political affiliation.

But one practical step to achieving this end is to seal any loopholes
that may still be there in regard to achieving sustainable development
though mining. This, we believe, can only be done by reviewing all
mining agreements made so for by the government on behalf of the people
of Malawi, says the statement.

Much as the following legislation guides mining sector; the
Environmental Management Act of 1996, the Mines and Minerals Act of
1981, the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 1983 and the
Explosives Act, 1968, it is however unfortunate to note that there is
still no policy framework or instruments to guide resource revenue
collection, usage and auditing. We also take note that Malawi further
faces challenges in policy implementation due to insufficient capacity
to monitor and ensure compliance with domestic legislation and
international best practice standards,"said CHRR.

The rights watchdog also noted that uranium mining, whether
well-regulated or not poses serious risks to human health and the

Rights group is therefore calling for the enactment of legislation to
regulate the mining and handling of radioactive materials like uranium
as soon as possible before any serious mining is conducted.

CHRR recommend review of the mining contracts signed between
government and all mining companies in order to seal any loopholes that
may prevent the people of this country from benefiting from the

We also strongly call for a review of the mining tax regime to
guarantee optimal benefit for the people of Malawi, who will probably
suffer the harmful effects of radiation and environmental damages for
many years to come.

CHRR noted that a report jointly released last month by Action Aid
International, Christian Aid, Third World Network Africa, Tax Justice
Network African and Southern Africa Resource Watch, which indicates
that even with its 15 percent stake, the government of Malawi will
forego revenues of up to US$124 million in the mine's anticipated
eleven year life span.

This is an enormous amount which could be used to combat poverty in
the country. CHRR is, therefore, calling any incoming government after
the May 19 polls to revenue the mining tax regime to ensure that the
country fully benefits from its mineral wealth.

The research report also revealed how mining companies routinely
deprive African countries of huge amounts of tax revenue. Some of the
methods they use, according to the report, include: Forcing governments
to grant tax subsidies and concessions by threatening to go elsewhere
if they are not forthcoming; Insisting mining contracts signed with
governments remain secret and using the secrecy to pursue tax avoidance
strategies and false accounting to enable companies to artificially
depress profits to evade tax.

And for the purpose of transparency and accountability, CHRR is also
demanding Publish What You Pay system, whereby every penny that Paladin
and any mining company pay to government plus any other services
rendered to citizens should be published in the papers.

It is not a secret that most foreign mining companies use all sorts of
tactics in order to pay as little tax as possible in countries where
they are operating. And as a country, we need to stand firm and guard
against such abuse of our resources by foreign companies, reads the

To ensure that the country fully benefits from mining operations in the
country, CHRR are calling for the strengthening of laws regarding
extractive industry including mining.

Efforts should also be made to the capacity of the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to ensure compliance of tax laws.

In addition, mining contracts and tax revenues need to be subjected to
rigorous parliamentary scrutiny to improve accountability. It is no
secret that Malawi mining fiscal regime is extremely generous to
investors and provides the lowest revenues to the government.

CHRR also call for the passing of legislation to guide resource revenue collection, usage and auditing in the country.

Nyasa Times

Post published in: Economy

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