Artisanal Mining , A Blessing and A Curse – Kitwe Zambia
By Nsama Musonda Kearns
Voice Note 1
Greetings to you all dear listeners, My name is Nsama Musonda Kearns and I am based Zambia, I run a community based organization known as World Wide Care for Nature. Today am very delighted to be given this opportunity to talk about the issue of the Black Mountain.
This is an issue which has raised a lot of concerns and cries to the citizens of Zambia due to the disaster that recently took place in which 10 workers where killed. This happened in Nkhana West which is in Kitwe, the old Copper mining area of Zambia.
Voice Note 2
The Nkhana West slime dam also known as the Black Mountain was created from the tailing that came from Nkhana West smelter which was commissioned by the Anlgo American cooperation of South Africa in 1931.
After many years of mining there were many companies including the Zambian consolidated of copper who were interested in taking over the management of the dump because there were rumours that in contained rich minerals contents. Others were saying it contained gold,others were saying a lot of copper concentrate.
Voice Note 3
This news must have got to Sakhile township. Sakhile is a very nearby township where these slime dumping are located and it is a Peri-Urban township created by the British colonialists for the African mineworkers. Most of the youth in this township are affected by unemployment and there are high poverty levels.
So, when the youth heard about this slime had mineral contents, they started conducting illegal mining.
In 2016 towards the general elections because the youth in Zambia form the majority of voters, they engaged government that because of high unemployment levels and because of poverty they want shares in this dump.
There were a number of court cases because there were a lot of interested candidates in the slime dump. In February this year, on the 27 this year 2018, the government gave the Gerebooas, the name of the organisation formed by the youth of Sakhile. They were a a fearsome gang.The Gerebooas were given 10% share in the slime dam. They since started conducting mining.
Voice Note 4
There was concern from community that the dump was not safe. People were worried about the hazardous waste which was to come from there and how it’s going to affect the environment. People were also concerned about the safety because even before the Gereboaas were even given that 10% we were seeing pictures are flooding in social media of the youth being buried from the same slime dam.
Voice Note 5
In May the Geerebooas were formed a cooperative called Capermoa and engaged with another company to conduct blasting.
The blasting destroyed houses from Nkana West.Some had broken windows but we could not get a full report because Nkhana West most of the issues are fenced off and it was difficult to know exactly which houses were affected.
Voice Note 6
There were now more cries from the general public and even in parliament issues were raised how were this Gerebooas given this Black Mountain. They did they conduct environmental impact assessment. There was a council meeting just the beginning of June and the council said they would like to see the environmental impact assessment.
And unfortunately tragedy struck before any action was taken. On 20th of June this loose material from the blasting just collapsed and killed 10 people instantly, 7 were injured and admitted to hospital.From reports we had circulating on social media from people who witnessed said that there were many more people who that were expected to have died or to have been seriously injured.
Voice note 7
So now government has put the mining operations on hold. The issue was raised in parliament. There were calls from the general public that the mines minister should resign on matters of public interest. Which we are still waiting to hear because he said he is not going to step down.
In my view the biggest problem is that the mine sector has got a lot of regulations but unfortunately, they are not adhered to, they are not being followed. According to the mines minerals act of 2015 it is very clear that no mining operation should commence without he environmental impact assessment. An environmental impact assessment is what helps to see what environmental stipulations, regulations have put by the interested company and this is what you can use to hold them accountable because safety measures are put there and in case of accidents control measures ae put there.
So, in this case because there was no impact assessment it has been very difficult to hold this people accountable.
Voice Note 8
As civil society organizations my appeal, my cry is to be proactive to work together, this issue is still pending, it is a serious matter, let’s work together and advocate for the immediate release of the environmental impact assessment so that we can hold government accountable. If we don’t work together the poor people will remain voiceless and will not benefit minerals which they are supposed to benefit from. According to the world bank report of 2016 Zambia is still a favourable environment for mining it is still realizing its GDP for mining but the people are still not benefiting, so when will the Zambian people benefit from the minerals. People need to follow regulations and we need to advocate for human rights to be respected. Thank you very much