Ban on rare earth exploration worries Japan


Japanese ambassador to Malawi Fujio Samukawa says he is concerned with disagreements that have led to the stalling of the exploration of rare earth on Mulanje Mountain.

Samukawa said he is baffled that the development is coming at a time the Malawi government has already issued a license authorising the exploration of minerals in the area.

Jogmec, representing the Japanese government, is in a joint venture with Springstone and another Canadian company in the exercise.

“I don’t know what we can do next because we have a license from the government to do the exploration. We are worried. As an experienced partner in this, Japan would always consider issues to do with nature conservation and the exploration itself. Exploration and conservation is one package to us,” said the Japanese envoy.

Prominent figures in Mulanje, including senior politician Brown Mpinganjira Mkanda, sought an injunction stopping the exploration over environmental concerns. The High Court in Blantyre granted the injunction.

Samukawa said samples of the rare earth from Mulanje have already been sent to Japan for laboratory tests on possible volumes available in the area and quality which should determine its value.

Japan used to get most of its rare earth requirements from China but following the escalating dispute over islands in the East China Sea with Beijing, Tokyo is scouting for it elsewhere.

“Japan is interested in the rare earth on Mulanje Mountain,” said Samukawa. “It’s very unfortunate that there is a stoppage on the exploration. We are trying to help Malawi government with the mapping of sites for mineral wealth.”

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