Mine threatens closure over pollution row

A Chinese owned mine in Chingola has threatened to dismiss 200 of its workers because the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) is demanding that it follows environmental standards.

China Copper Mines (CCM) yesterday claimed in a statement that despite the mine fully complying with all the requirements from Government agencies, pressure was still being exerted on the mine to cease operations for unknown reasons.

Company director Yu Wang Ping said the mine was being pressurized to lay off over 200 workers and suspend a $50 million investment which was aimed at creating 1,000 jobs.

Mr Yu said the mine owners would place the mine under care and maintenance if President Edgar Lungu does not stop Government agencies from interfering with its operations.

He also said the mine had suffered financial losses over the past two months due to disruptions in production by Government agencies.

But Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma has said Government would  not allow CCM to dismiss its workers.

In an interview from Malole constituency where he is inspecting Government projects, Mr Yaluma said he was aware about CCM’s position, but Government would not allow them to go that route.

“We shall not allow people to lose jobs just like that. I will be issuing a statement in the next few days to come. Right now I am in my constituency; let me come back to the office,” he said.

Last month, residents of Chingola staged a peaceful protest at the District Commissioner’s office where they complained against CCM’s alleged dumping of acid, oil and other chemicals in Kafisali since it started its mining activities in the area.

The ZEMA then served the company with an Environmental Restoration Order, which ordered the mining company to take measures among them to reduce, remedy or mitigate any adverse effects related to pollution of the Fitula and Muntimpa streams and surrounding areas from its leaching and solvent extraction operations.

ZEMA also ordered that the mining firm immediately ceases operations at the  extraction and solvent plants and associated infrastructure which were the source of pollution.

The order also directed the mine to remove or alleviate any injury to land, animals, and the environment or to the amenities of Kafisali and Kankomo communities; and immediately provide an alternative source of clean and safe drinking water for the people and livestock until such a time contamination in the streams was reduced to acceptable levels.

“Construct another pond south of the current leach ponds to act as a Pollution Control Dam (“PCD”) and lined up with High Density Polyethylene (HDP) material to contain future possible pollution occurrences.

‘‘Restore affected land including the two streams (Fitula and Mimbula),” the order stated.