Malawi gold rush pulls in villagers as excitement swells

Malawians are rushing to exploit the gold discovered last year on the outskirts of the capital Lilongwe, and small-scale gold miners are hoping to get rich quick before big companies take over.

LILONGWE, MALAWI (RECENT) (REUTERS – Bwenzi Nkalima ditched his job as a watchman after a new gold rush in Malawi promised to bring in more money to look after his family.

Now he spends his days in Nathenje, on the outskirts of the capital Malawi, sifting through soil in search of small gold deposits.

“I used to work as a watchman. My wages were only from hand to mouth. I was very poor. But with this gold mine, there is a big change. I am already managing my family and things look promising indeed,” he said.

Gold panning has become increasingly attractive for many rural dwellers struggling to survive in the impoverished southern African nation.

Periodically hit by severe food shortages and power outages, Malawi is struggling to contain its external debt and put its economy on a sound footing.

Gold mined from Nathenje is currently fetching around $34 per gram. It’s proving to be a lifeline for the thousands of villagers who have flocked to the area to illegally mine the mineral.

“I spend my time here and on a daily basis, I am able to make enough money now. 10,000-50,000 kwacha ($15-$50 U.S.) per day and that is how I am sustaining my family, said local miner Mlelemba William Makiyi.

Malawi is yet to regulate artisanal and small-scale mining although officials say they are working to change this.

“It is an illegal activity that is taking place in Malawi and we do not want it. That is why we say at some point they will be ejected out of those places unless they follow the rules of the country,” Sangwani Phiri, a spokesperson for the ministry of natural resources, land and minerals, told Reuters.

He said a review of the 1981 Mines and Minerals Act had been finalised and a bill was expected to be tabled in parliament before the end of this year.

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