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Mining project threatens one of Africa's highest peaks.
The benefits to Malawi of the bauxite extraction are unclear, according to conservation groups. Mining fees and employment will give short term benefits, but they may be outweighed by the long-term costs of the mining.
"The mountain's fragile and unique ecology will be damaged beyond redemption. The mountain is a legacy for future generations of Malawians. This is a prime tourism site, and with the bauxite mining we don't get added value, we get negative value," said Rafiq Hajat, the head of the Institute for Policy Interaction in Malawi.
The global price of aluminum is currently low because of the financial crisis, despite Chinese demand for metals. But when the world's thirst for raw materials rebounds, preserving places in Africa like Mount Mulanje will become harder as cash-strapped African governments lure to elusive foreign direct investment with access to raw materials.
"Economic colonialization exists within Africa today," said Hajat."We Africans support it, we encourage it, because it is a clear short-term gain. But until we see ourselves in control of our own environment, commodities and food resources, others will seek, and succeed, to control them."