Malawians have questioned plans by a Canadian-based mineral and exploration company to ship to Australia 60 tonnes of sample for laboratory analysis.
The company, Mkango Resources Limited, was awarded a two-year licence renewal for exclusive prospecting and exploring rare earth elements and associated minerals at Songwe Hill in Phalombe District.
Mkango said last week that the “metallurgical test work is an essential component of the exploration process in order to complete the definitive feasibility study, including the design of a processing plant for the Songwe Hill project.”
However, Malawians have questioned the size of the sample which will be transported to Australia for laboratory analysis.
“60,000 kg for “sampling.” Let that sink in,” social commentator Onjezani Kenani wrote on Facebook.
Commenting on Kenani’s post, Prescott Wreath called on activists to follow up on the issue.
“We need Magufuli type of leaders, passionate about their country. He would not tolerate this nonsense. NGOs should pursue this,” he said.
“I was listening to the Minister responsible for mining about this. Am telling you I almost cried. He was defending the sample export as if it’s a minor issue. It’s rotten,” chipped in another commenter.
Other commenters said the company should have set up a laboratory in Malawi.
However, other Malawians defended the mining company saying such huge samples are normal in mining.
Martin Nyangatayani said: “I’ve been involved in mining and 60 tonne sampling is nothing. These are just three minor hauling trucks. What we should be worrying about is why we don’t have these laboratories in the country up to now. Sending these samples outside is too costly and delaying.
“Even if the mineral was in highest concentration in that sample, the cost of transporting it to Australia would still be too costly than what they would get from the mineral. People need to get some civic education on this.”
Another commented argued that the company is possibly following procedures by sending the samples to Australia
“Now, it is up to what Malawians put as conditions for any sending out of samples. By the way, mineral samples are used to design mining machines and that requires the samples to be representative of the actual deposits composition and in a suitable quantity for trials,” King Jassi said.
In a press statement last week, Mkango said it is conducting out public awareness campaign to update stakeholders on the progress of the project and explain the bulk sampling programme.
The mining company also urged Malawians with questions over bulk sampling programme to forward their concerns to the director in the Department of Mines and the company’s management.