Environmental Close Up on Sunday; Inside Malingunde Graphite Project in Lilongwe

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The Malingunde Graphite Project is one of the country’s mining which will be located approximately 15 kilometers (km) southwest of the capital Lilongwe.

 

At the hem of Traditional Authority (T.A) Masumbankhunda, the project is under feasibility studies to determine the viability of a Graphite mine.

 

Currently, Sovereign Metals Services is also conducting an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA), as a requirement by the Environment Management Act (No 19 of 2017).

 

Briefing the media in the city this week, Country Manager for Sovereign Services Limited, Andries Kruger said exploration is currently underway which includes conducting various technical studies to evaluate the viability of the Graphite Project in the area.

 

Among other aspects, Kruger said the feasibility study will consider the resettlement planning process for people who will be displaced if Sovereign Metals decides to proceed with the project mid-2019.

 

He said once the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has approved the project, there will be discussion with each household in the area to confirm their assets, agree on the compensation package and sign a compensation certificate.

 

“If resettlement is required, the earliest time when people are likely to be moved is in 2020. However, communities are encouraged to continue with their normal lives and activities, and can cultivate their fields during the upcoming season,” he said.

 

According to the Sovereign Metals Services Limited country manager, the economic scoping study was completed in mid-2017 while the pre-feasibility study (PFS) will be completed towards the end of August 2018, after which the company will commence a definitive feasibility study (DFS).

 

“A decision on whether it is viable to develop a [graphite] mine at Malingunde will only be taken around mid-2019 once the DFS has been completed,” Kruger said.

 

 

He said the aim of the activities was to gather baseline data on environmental and social conditions in the project area which will have a bearing in determining the potential impact that a mining operation may have in the area.

 

Director of Mines, Jalf Salima said Sovereign Services Limited has noticed significant amount of graphite during its feasibility study which suggests Malingunde might have a mining company after further studies have been conducted.

 

Salima said the Department of Mining is working closely with Sovereign Services Limited to ensure that all the necessary steps are taken before issuing a mining license.

 

“This is an important project and a lot of pertinent factors have to be taken into consideration before issuing the license, if it will be issued. That means the project will commence in 2020,” he said.

 

So, what’s inside the Malingunde Graphite Project? The Maravi Post takes through the process till 2020 when the mine is expected after getting full approval from the country’s authority.

 

 

Introduction

Sovereign Metals Limited (Sovereign) is an Australian publicly listed company that trades on the Australian Securities Exchange ASX) under the code ASX:SVM.

 

Sovereign is proposing the development of an open pit graphite mine at Malingunde in Malawi.

 

The Malingunde Graphite Project (the Project) is located approximately 15 kilometres (km) southwest of Malawi’s capital city of Lilongwe, and falls within the Lilongwe District of the Central Administrative Region (see Figure 1 for location). The Project area is located directly north of Kamuzu Dam II, in proximity to the villages of Kumalindi, Ndumila and Kubale, amongst others.

 

McCourt Mining Pty Ltd (McCourt Mining) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sovereign and was acquired by Sovereign in September 2012. McCourt Mining is the licence holder of the exclusive prospecting licence (EPL), EPL0372, in which the Project is located (Figure 1).

 

 

Project Development Phases

Before commencing a mining project, a company needs to evaluate the geologic, financial, Environmental, social and engineering aspects in order to determine the viability of a project. The project development phases (or mining life-cycle) are demonstrated in

 

Sovereign is currently still engaged in exploration and conducting various technical studies to evaluate the viability of developing the Project at Malingunde. An economic scoping study was completed in mid-2017 and the pre-feasibility study (PFS) will be completed towards the end of August 2018, after which Sovereign will commence a definitive feasibility study (DFS).

 

Sovereign is also currently undertaking an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) process as required in terms of the Environment Management Act (No 19 of 2017).

 

A decision on whether it is viable to develop a mine at  Malingunde will only be taken around mid  2019 once the DFS and ESIA have been completed.

 

An overview of the various Project development activities required before mining can proceed is indicated below.

Study / Item Completed? Timeframe

Economic Scoping Study ✔ Mid-2017

Environmental Scoping Report ✔ May 2018

Pre-feasibility Study Near complete August 2018

ESIA Report In progress 4th Quarter 2018

Resettlement Action Plan In progress 4th Quarter 2018

-Definitive Feasibility Study 1st Quarter 2019

-Decision to Mine MId-2019

-Mining Licence Application Mid-2019

-Product Marketing Agreements Mid-2019

 

Previous Exploration Activities

Various exploration programs have been undertaken by Sovereign in the Malingunde area over the last few years as part of the feasibility studies.

 

ESIA Process

The ESIA process is generally undertaken in two distinct phases, namely the environmental scoping and ESIA Phases. A draft environmental scoping report (ESR) was made available at the end of the environmental scoping phase from 5 March to 13 April 2018 for review and comment by stakeholders.

 

Comments and queries were incorporated in the comments and response report, and the revised ESR was submitted to the Environmental Affairs Department for review and approval of the terms of reference for the ESIA Phase.

 

In June 2018, the Environmental Affairs Department accepted the terms of reference and the various specialist studies are currently being completed.

These include:

¨ Social impact assessment.

¨ Terrestrial fauna and flora.

¨ Wetlands.

¨ Aquatic ecology.

¨ Soils and land capability.

¨ Surface water.

¨ Groundwater.

¨ Air quality and greenhouse gas.

¨ Archaeology and cultural heritage.

¨ Noise and vibration.

¨ Visual impact assessment.

¨ Resettlement action plan.

¨ Health risk assessment.

¨ Mine closure plan.

 

2018 Fieldwork Program

Sovereign intends to undertake various fieldwork activities between July and December 2018, consisting mainly of environmental and social data collection, and a limited amount of drilling for a number of technical purposes.

 

Further metallurgical, geotechnical and hydrological drilling will be undertaken in the vicinity of Kumalindi village and surrounding areas during September 2018, in support of the feasibility study.

 

All drilling will take place within EPL0372. A reverse circulation drill rig and diamond core drill rig will be used on site during the drilling program.

 

As part of the metallurgical drilling, a bulk ore sample of approximately 100 tonnes will be taken, of which a portion will be exported to Canada for testing in a pilot plant. The pilot plant consists of small scale equipment similar to what will be used in the processing plant for the Project.

 

Testing is undertaken to provide key design information for the processing plant and to demonstrate the achievable product (graphite) quality. The bulk sampling and testing in the pilot plant is at a small scale and does not constitute mining.

 

Environmental Activities

A number of environmental specialists have been undertaking fieldwork in the area since 2017 in support of the ESIA process.

 

The intention of these activities is to gather baseline data about the environmental and social conditions in the Project area.

 

This data will be used to determine the potential impact that a mining operation may have on these environmental and social aspects – e.g. the current status of surface and groundwater quality, dust in the air, communities around the Project.

 

The majority of the environmental and social fieldwork activities have now been completed. However, surface and groundwater quality sampling and dust fallout monitoring will continue for the rest of 2018, and will inform future monitoring that will be implemented should the Project go ahead.

 

 

Drilling Activities

The following drilling activities are planned for the remainder of 2018:

¨ Continued low impact “hand-auger” drilling to test for additional graphite mineralisation in the Malingunde and other areas across the Lilongwe Plain.

¨ Approximately four water monitoring boreholes in the area of the proposed tailings storage facility (TSF) (Kavuma area).

¨ Approximately fourteen “diamond core” holes for geotechnical studies in the location of the TSF, the proposed plant site, and the proposed open pit areas.

¨ Approximately eighty “air core” holes for continued definition of the graphite resource at Malingunde and to test for further

graphite mineralisation at depth on other regional targets.

¨ Approximately eight large diameter ~65 cm spiral auger holes to collect approximately 100 tonnes of material for metallurgical testing.

Prior to commencing any drilling activities, Sovereign will conduct crop and land disturbance assessments in conjunction with the Department of Lands, the Department of Agriculture and the Lilongwe District Council. These assessments are planned towards the middle of August 2018 and will only be conducted where drilling activities are proposed. Disturbance allowances will be paid to affected land holders before the drilling activities commence and will be based on compensation rates determined

by the relevant government departments involved in the assessment.

 

As is the norm when Sovereign conducts any disturbance activities, rehabilitation works will be undertaken upon completion of the operations to return the disturbed ground to pre-disturbance conditions as per agreement with the Department of Mines and the landholders.

 

It is anticipated that the drilling activities will commence in August 2018.

 

 

Grievance Mechanism

 

A grievance mechanism was included in the ESR that was available for public comment from March to April 2018. Although the grievance mechanism is still to be finalised, Sovereign’s approach is to proactively deal with any complaints during the 2018 fieldwork program as follows:

 

Step 1: A grievance form will be available on site where a representative of Sovereign will assist the complainant to complete the form and/or to receive the completed form. The form will be logged in a grievance file for record-keeping purposes.

Step 2: If the complaint cannot be dealt with immediately, the Sovereign representative will acknowledge receipt of a formal grievance in writing within three working days. The letter will specify the name of the Sovereign person responsible and the process that will be followed to address the complaint. The letter will also provide a reference number and a probable date for resolving the grievance. If applicable, the Sovereign representative will provide a copy of the log form to the claimant.

Step 3: The Sovereign representative will consider and prioritise the grievance received. Where applicable, the Sovereign representative will take photographs and/or interview witnesses, as required. If the Sovereign representative is unable to resolve the grievance, he/she will forward the grievance to the Sovereign Country Manager.

Where possible, grievances will be finalized within 30 days of receipt. The complainant may be contacted during this time to clarify issues.

 

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Resettlement Planning and Implementation

In the event that the Project does proceed, resettlement of some communities may need to be undertaken. As required by Malawian legislation and international best practice, specifically the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Performance Standard 5: Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement, resettlement planning is required before any resettlement can be implemented.

 

The outcomes of resettlement planning activities have to be captured in a resettlement action plan (RAP) document, which is submitted to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development for review, comment and approval. Before approving a project’s ESIA and granting environmental authorisation for a project, the Environmental Affairs Department requires that a RAP is submitted to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

 

The Resettlement Planning Process

The resettlement planning process for the Project includes the following main activities:

¨ A baseline survey of the project area (April – June 2018).

¨ Consultation with households who may have to be resettled if the project continues, to discuss their preferences if they have

to be resettled (August 2018).

¨ Submission of the baseline data to the Department of Valuation to calculate preliminary compensation rates for assets that may be lost as a result of resettlement (August 2018).

¨ Compilation of a draft RAP document and presentation of the document to stakeholders (end 2018).

¨ Submission of the RAP to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development for comment and approval (end 2018).

 

Steps Towards Potential Resettlement

Implementation

Resettlement will only be undertaken if Sovereign has taken a decision to proceed with the project (approximately mid-2019),

and once the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has approved the RAP. Implementation can take a long time to

complete, and will include the following steps (if approved by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development):

¨ A verification survey to be undertaken by the Regional Department of Surveys and Valuation, to confirm the baseline information collected by AECOM during the resettlement planning.

¨ Discussions with each household to confirm their assets, agree on the compensation package, and signing of a compensation certificate.

¨ Payment of compensation and preparation of a resettlement site (if relevant).

¨ Physical resettlement and loss of access to assets such as agricultural fields.

 

If resettlement is required, the earliest that people are likely to be moved is during 2020. Communities are encouraged to continue with their normal lives and activities, and cultivate their fields during the upcoming season.

 

It is important to know that not everyone who was surveyed from April to June 2018 may have to be resettled; the final Project design will aim to reduce resettlement as much as possible.

 

If resettlement is required, the earliest time when people are likely to be moved is in 2020.

 

However, communities are encouraged to continue with their normal lives and activities, and can cultivate their fields during the upcoming season.

Development

Estimated

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