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Apart from industrial mineral production, which services local demand, Malawi does not have a well-developed minerals industry. However, Malawi does have potential heavy mineral sand, bauxite, phosphate, uranium and rare earth element deposits. The outlook for Malawi's mineral industry was tied to the country's ability to spur exports, improve educational and health facilities, solve environmental problems of deforestation and erosion, and deal with the rapidly growing problem of HIV/AIDS.

Malawi has three heavy mineral sand deposits that have had varying amounts of work carried out on them. The Tengani deposit is situated in the south of the country and has estimated reserves of over 108 Mt of heavy minerals, of which ilmenite is the main titaniferous bearing mineral. The Mpyukyu/Kachulu deposit is located within the Lake Chilwa Basin in eastern Malawi. Reserves are estimated at 4.8 Mt ilmenite, 300,000t zircon and 10 000t rutile. The Monkey Bay, Salima and Unga deposits are all beach deposits located along the shores of Lake Malawi. Collectively, these deposits support an appreciable titanium resource.

Several carbonatites have been investigated for potential phosphate, niobium and rare earth potential. The Tundulu carbonatite has been evaluated and has shown potentially economic grades of Niobium, phosphate and rare earth elements.

Several mineral deposits exist in Malawi which can be mined on a small scale. The Malawi Government has embarked on an economic empowerment programme aimed at promoting and supporting small-scale mining in areas of import substitution and value-adding services. These programmes include gemstone cutting and polishing, gypsum mining and lime production using coal.

Mineral Law & Legislation

All minerals are vested in the President on behalf of the people of Malawi. The search for mining and disposal of these minerals is governed by the Mines and Minerals Act (1981). The Administration of the Act is the responsibility of the Commissioner for Mines and Minerals in the Ministry of Energy and Mining.

  • Reconnaissance Licenses (RL): are issued for one year for an agreed programme over an area not exceeding 100,000 km2. No subsurface operations are permitted unless specifically authorized. However, holders may erect camps and temporary buildings.
  • An Exclusive Prospecting License (EPL): confers exclusive rights to carry out a programme of prospecting operations for specified minerals over a specified area. A detailed programme of exploration, expected expenditures and personal details are required. There must also be a proposal for the training and employment of Malawi citizens in the operations. The license is issued for a maximum of three years and may be renewed twice for periods not exceeding two years each. The holder has the automatic right to apply for and be granted a Mining License after recording a final and on submission of a feasibility study report. Progress reports must be submitted to the Minister at the end of each phase including a work programme and cost estimates for the following phase.
  • A Mining License (ML): may be issued to holders of an EPL or non holders. The applicant must give a detailed feasibility report including the anticipated programme of mining operations, an environmental impact assessment, and proposals for the employment and training of Malawians. The license confers the holders the exclusive right to prospect, mine, produce and sell specified minerals from the designated area. The maximum area for non-holders of EPL is 250 km2 and for the holders not more than the land subject to the EPL. It may be renewed for a period of 15 years thereafter. Regular reports on the operation must be made to the Minister.

Three types of licenses are issued for small scale mining and prospecting operations. Methods are limited by both financial costs and technical expertise. These licenses are:

  • Mineral Permits: are issued to individuals by the District Commissioner of the area for building and other construction materials upon payment of a prescribed fee.
  • Non-Exclusive Prospecting Licenses (NEPLs): are issued to individuals or firms who cannot afford large scale prospecting operations but have technical expertise. The holder may conduct prospecting operations in one or more districts for any mineral specified in the license. The holder may not prospect in an area held under exclusive license. The initial term of the license is one year but may be renewed for further one year periods. Applicants must be Malawians or foreign nationals who have resided in Malawi for not less than four years. The holder must seek permission from owners of the land before commencing operations.
  • Mining Claims:are issued to holders of NEPLs after submission of sketches and fees. A claim license confers the holder exclusive right to prospect mine and sell the product. The maximum area to be pegged for each claim is two hectares and up to three claims may be pegged with one NEPL. All claims expire on 31st March of each year and renewed effective 1st April. A claim license does not prohibit the land owner from grazing and farming on the property. A claim may be cancelled where either conditions are not being met or the deposit can be exploited using large scale equipment. Annual reports on prescribed forms must be submitted to the Commissioner of Mines and Minerals.

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