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Paladin Africa uranium mine Karonga, Malawi


The Kayelekera Uranium Mine is the first uranium mine in Malawi. It is operated by Australian company Paladin Energy Ltd. The government of Malawi offered the company a reduced regime of corporate and rent tax in exchange for a fifteen percent stake in the project. While the extraction of uranium is a dangerous activity that poses risks to the local community’s health, life and livelihood, these risks are increased where the activities are not strictly regulated, managed and monitored.

In May 2007, a group of NGOs sued Paladin Africa (part of Paladin Resources) and the Government of Malawi in Malawi High Court, seeking to halt uranium exploration by the company at the Kayelekera project in Karonga district. The plaintiffs requested that the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project be made public and that the local communities be consulted prior to the project’s commencement; the government had argued that the findings of the assessment were classified. They also demanded a legally binding agreement between local communities and Paladin requiring the company to protect their environment and health . The plaintiffs claimed that uranium mining would cause environmental degradation and pollution of local lakes and rivers, leading to groundwater contamination. The NGOs claimed that Malawi did not have appropriate laws in place to license or permit the mining of uranium in a safe manner.

Operations have been disrupted several times, with an incident in 2009 leading to armed police ruthlessly firing teargas at workers in a sit-in since to pressure management for better working conditions and strikes that have forced Paladin to shut down.

Basic Data

NamePaladin Africa uranium mine Karonga, Malawi
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Nuclear
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Uranium extraction
Specific Commodities

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsUranium in Malawi: In 2010, Malawi contributed 1% to world uranium production, production at Kayelekera rose by 58%, and uranium accounted for 10% of exports. In 2012, mining contributed 10% to GDP and exports but only 0.76% to government revenue and 1.2% to domestic revenue (1)
Project Area (in hectares)5550
Type of PopulationRural
Company Names or State EnterprisesPaladin Africa Limited from Malawi
Paladin Resources from Australia
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Malawi, Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment, Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Mines, Ministry of Labour
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersKaronga Natural Resources Justice Committee, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Uraha Foundation, Citizens for Justice, Young Politicians Union, Karonga Women Forum, Focus, Ngerenge Community Based Organisation and two village headmen from the area., Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD)

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Out of court settlement


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil contamination
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Potential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseInstitutional changes
New legislation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Court case - out of court settlement
Development of AlternativesThe plaintiffs requested that the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project be made public and that the local communities be consulted prior to the project’s commencement.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The NGOs withdrew the case in November 2007 after reaching an out-of-court settlement with the company and the government. As part of the agreement, the Malawi Government agreed to enact new legislation regulating uranium mining and transportation prior to permitting Paladin’s uranium exploration to begin. The government also agreed to invest a portion of its revenues from the mine in the local community. Paladins agreement with the government was amended to provide for additional investment in water treatment facilities for the Karonga district.

In August 2011, the Karonga Natural Resources Justice Committee petitioned the Malawi Government for access to information that would permit them to monitor the mining activities in the region for compliance with fundamental human rights and labour standards.

Sources and Materials


Mines & Minerals Policy 2013.pdf

Here, several links to Acts, Policy documents and the Constitution:

Malawi Mines & Minerals Policy (2013)


(1)The Revenue Costs and Benefits of FDI in the Extractive Industry in Malawi: The Case of Kayelekera Uranium Mine (AFRODAD 2013)

Report for Norwegian Church Aid-Malawi and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace-Malawi (July 2013)

Many more resources at:

Malawis Mining Opportunity: Increasing Revenues, Improving Legislation


Malawian community takes on miners

Links provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre:

Media Links

Paladin can avoid and evade tax and export capital through transfer mispricing using the large number of associated holding companies, according to the 2013 AFRODAD report.

Other CommentsAt present, it is not clear where the Government of Malawi is investing the rents it receives from the extractive industries; revenue should be going to public investment projects to benefit future generations.

Furthermore, the Economic Recovery Plan launched by Joyce Banda’s government in September 2012 does not explicitly indicate how the mining sector is linked to Malawi’s other key industries addressed in the plan (commercial agriculture, tourism, energy and information and communication technologies), which would ensure the benefits of exploited natural resources are available for future generations.

Meta Information

ContributorIrene Pietropaoli
Last update08/04/2014



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