The Warm Heart of Africa

Minerals mined:Sand, bauxite, phosphate, uranium and rare earth element deposits

Independence: 6 July 1964

Area: 118,000 km2

Mining fact: Malawi's production of uranium has contributed 1% of the global production of this mineral

The tiny landlocked country of Malawi is bordered by Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. Though rich in natural resources, it is low in natural mineral resources and is crippled by rapid population growth and a reliance on agriculture as a driver of the economy. With over 80% of the population living in rural areas, 90% of the export revenues of Malawi come from agricultural exports. The main source of income comes from tobacco, tea, sugarcane, cotton, corn, sorghum and potatoes.

Unlike many countries in Africa, Malawi is relatively politically stable and Lake Malawi running the length of the country, following the Great Rift Valley is a source of income through tourism, though is in danger of becoming over-fished. It is also currently the source of a growing debate on the untapped mining potential and natural mineral resources that may be available in its depths.

One of these is the exploration for oil, though it is an exploration fraught with the potential for war. Neighboring Tanzania claims ownership of 50% of Lake Malawi and has to date blocked all efforts at drilling and exploring for oil reserves.

Malawi is reliant on aid, mostly from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), however the country is dogged by corruption scandals and governmental mismanagement of development funds. In 2000, this led to the cessation of aid from the IMF with many donors swiftly following suit.

Mining Potential and Natural Resources

Until very recently, Malawi was considered an agricultural based economy; a country with very few natural mineral resources. Gemstones in smaller quantities have been the backbone of the mining sector until the discovery of Uranium.

Uranium Mining in Malawi

The Kayelekera mines based in the northern parts of Malawi contain significant reserves of uranium. Since 2009, the production and exportation of uranium accounts for 1% of the global production of uranium. A small amount, but an extremely important contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of one of the poorest countries in the world. By 2013, the contribution, by uranium production, to the GDP had increased from 1% to 10%. With continued extraction, exportation, and more importantly, the search for future reserves, the mining sector is set to up to 20% of GDP in the next 15 years.

Natural Resources in Malawi

The development of the agricultural sector over the last century has meant that certain agricultural activities are very well developed. The tobacco, tea and sugar cane industries are thriving, though the world slump in tobacco prices has affected the industry significantly over the past ten years.

Tobacco, Tea and Sugarcane Production in Malawi

Malawi is one of the world’s top ten tobacco producers and tobacco, tea and sugarcane are still the largest contributors to the economy. The country is the world’s largest producer of burley leaf tobacco. The tobacco sector continues to show growth, in part due to the decline of tobacco farming in Western nations. The country first started exporting tobacco in 1893 and the institution of Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) in 1971 by President Hastings Banda ensured that tobacco production remained a priority. Unfortunately the tobacco industry was controlled by the government with very little thought given to privatization and sustained growth.

Mining Companies operating in Malawi

Bwanje Cement Company, Crown Minerals, Rio Tinto