MALAWI IN FOCUS

Estimates from 2011 suggest that Malawi could have 12 uranium mines in the future. The same year, Malawi issued 30 exploration permits to foreign companies from Australia, South Africa, China and the United Kingdom to explore the country’s uranium reserves. In 2009, production began at the Kayelekera mine, ramping up to 1,101 tonnes of uranium and by 2012, catapulting Malawi from a non-producer to the world’s tenth largest producer. The Kayelekera mine however had been operating at a loss and in February 2014, Australia’s Paladin Energy announced that it would suspend operations at the mine, placing it on care and maintenance until the price of uranium recovers and production is once again profitable.

Malawi has had legislation on mining since 1981, and it began uranium production before its Atomic Energy Act of 2011 was enacted. The 2011 law featured provisions for establishing an independent monitoring and verification authority (the Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority) but the government has lacked the capacity to carry out such activities. The process of operationalizing the Authority is to be completed by the end of 2014/beginning of 2015.