Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Malawi intensifies search for gold, diamond

Malawi has intensified the search for gold and diamond in a latest bid to prop up its agro-based economy. The country depends largely on agriculture, which contributes over 60 per cent to the national economy.
But tobacco, its highest foreign exchange earner faces an uncertain future in the face of a global onslaught against the health hazards associated with smoking.

Price instability for other strategic crops such as cotton, tea and maize have also meant diminished returns for impoverished farmers, prompting government to experiment with new viable forms of economic spinning.

Leonard Kalindekafe, Director for the country’s Geological Surveys Department, said mineral exploration offered the next best alternative for Malawi.

“Mineral exploration can contribute significantly towards economic development for Malawi. That is why we have intensified the search for gold and diamond. There are strong possibilities that we have these precious minerals in the country, and what was remaining has been exploration,” said Kalindekafe.

He said the department has started drilling for diamond and gold, a process he said would take as long as six to one year to bring results.

“We have started exploration works for diamond in Mangochi. So far, we have extracted some substantial amount of Kimberlitic stones. These are the stones that contain diamond, though it is not always the case that you will get the diamond,” he said.

While drilling works for diamond have already started in the Southern Malawi district of Mangochi, exploration works for gold have also started in Neno district, another Southern region district.

The works are taking place at a former blitz mine. Malawi has a variety of mineral resources. Some of which include bauxite and uranium.

Uranium mining has already started at Kayerekera in the Northern Malawi district of Karonga. Paladin Africa, an Australian company carrying out the works, announced last month uranium exportation would start between September and October this year.

Grain Malunga, Malawi’s Energy and Mines Minister, is thrilled with the prospects of Malawi becoming an uranium exporter.

“It is such a great thing to happen to Malawi. We will be making an average US$10 million from uranium exportation every year,” said Malunga.

President Bingu wa Mutharika has called for more investments in the country’s mining sector.

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