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Mulanje Massif Rare Earth Mineral Exploration, Malawi


On March 18 2011, an exclusive property license was issued by Malawi Government to Spring Stone Limited to carry out exploration for Rare Earth Elements (REE) in Chambe basin of Mulanje Massif. This monad-knock has historically been subject to various mineral prospecting activities as it is widely believed to contain large deposits of bauxite and high value mid and heavy REEs. Listed on UNESCOs Biosphere reserves, Mulanje Massif is also home to locally endemic fauna and flora such like Mulanje Cider, yellow-throated apalis etc. Its various resources also constitute an essential livelihood lifeline to the indigenous population occupying the surrounding plains.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Mulanje Massif Rare Earth Mineral Exploration, Malawi
State or province:Southern Malawi
Location of conflict:Mulanje
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:
Rare metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Mulanje Massif is purported to have an estimated 25.5 million tonnes of Bauxite while the exact quantity of REE is not certainly known and recent activities are intended to establish exactly this

Project area:105000
Level of Investment:USD 2 (exploration); USD84,375 (licensing)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:100,000-428,322
Company names or state enterprises:Spring Stone Limited from Malawi
Spring Stone Explorations Inc. from Canada
Gold Canyon Resources Inc. from Canada
Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) from Japan
Relevant government actors:Malawi Ministry of Energy and Mining, Malawi Geological Survey Department, Zomba, Mulanje District Commissioners Office
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Mulanje Conservation Trust (MCC)
African Development Bank (AfDB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:In the meantime this is a more diffuse and largely uncoordinated grassroots movement in which none of the well-organised EJOs in Malawi are so far participating. An uneasy alliance of local actors, and in some cases with competing interests, Over 60 local leaders around the Mulanje Massif, A group calling itself concerned citizens, Bonnie Kalindo (famously AKA Winiko)-a Comedian and aspiring member of parliament in Mulanje., Peter Nowa-incumbent member of parliament for Mulanje Pasanii
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Threats of civil unrest without specific reference to using arms
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Thus far, it is difficult to assess the current status of this conflict. A complex interplay of vested local interests largely political/economic than ecological are at work here. Moreover, despite obtaining a temporary court order halting mineral exploration activities, this was later lifted and exploration work recommenced forthwith. With local communities still up in arms, it remains to be seen if any concessions will be forthcoming from Spring Stone to take into serious consideration socio-ecological grievances put forward by locals.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Malawis Bills of Rights (Chapter 5, Malawi Constitution)

Malawi Mines and Minerals Act 1981, section 50.

Malawi Environmental Management Act 1996.

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Geological report on the CHAMBE BASIN AREA
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Malawi Voce:
[click to view]

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[click to view]

Mining Malawi Blog:
[click to view]

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Malawi Nation newspaper:
[click to view]

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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[click to view]

The Nation

[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Isaac Tchuwa
Last update08/04/2014
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