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.