GOVERNMENT has pledged to explore ways to ensure First Quantum Minerals (FQM) continues to operate its US$1 million sawmill which was facing closure due to new legislation that clamped down on timber extraction.
The Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection deputy minister Susan Kawandami said her ministry was concerned because FQM was the first mine to set up an industrial project to harvest timber.
She was speaking during a tour of the sawmill at FQM’s Kalumbila mine where she heard how 41 jobs were at risk and distribution of 1,750 school desks had stalled due to the non-renewal of the company’s sawmill licence.
“Trident Foundation has made quite an impact on us as far as the Ministry of Lands is concerned because it is the first of its kind in this country for a mining company to set up an industrial project like this to harvest the timber when they are coming up with new investment,” she said.
Ms Kawandami gave the go-ahead for the company to dispatch the timber slats it had made for donation to replace the rotten timber used to build the footbridge at the National Heritage site at the source of the Zambezi River.
“There is no law that stops them from providing such a service to the community. They should have delivered them immediately.
“We have seen companies moving in and burning off the timber, thereby wasting it. But they harvest it and put it to good use. We see how local people are being empowered through skills development,’’ she said.
She said such initiatives were adding value to the timber that would have otherwise gone to waste.
She urged all multi-national companies to come on board and emulate what the mine was doing.
And FQM country manager General Kingsley Chinkuli praised the Government for appreciating the company’s long-term commitment to the nation’s sustainable development.
“This is a demonstration of how multi-national companies such as First Quantum Minerals can work in partnership with the Government to address challenges and benefit local communities,” he said.
FQM emphasised that all the timber being processed through the sawmill was harvested from within the footprint of the mine pit, two dams and areas where trees were felled as a requirement for operational expansion and would otherwise have been wasted.