China Copper Mine Limited: Stop blackmailing Government and Compensate Our people

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 Farmer Langsu Mumbelunga in his polluted field near the Mushishima stream, Zambia. Photograph: John Vidal for the Observer
A Farmer in his field polluted by toxic effluent from the mines. Photograph: John Vidal for the Observer

Dear Editor

As the common adage suggests: “Water is Life.” For years inhabitants of Kafisali Village in Chingola on the copperbelt went about there lives enjoying the natural fresh water from Kafisali dam. Every morning women and girls at times joined by young boys made long queues with buckets well balanced on their heads carrying water from the dam for each day’s chores and requirements. At noon in the scorching October heat wave cattle, goats and other domestic animals would be seen tracking down to the dam for a drink to quench thirsty.

And so Kafisali dam in the true sense was the life line of the Kafisali community and this was so for many years.Activities and the hype around the dam would almost come to a stand still during the months of November to February when there was plenty of water with the coming of the rain season, but after which the dam will again spurn back in to life providing the liquid of life for the inhabitants and every one who came to this part of the Copperbelt.

However, this cannot now be said to be true about Kafisali dam, something has gone wrong, Kafisali is no longer the dam of life infact Kafisali has become deadly. This is so because water that is supposed to aid and sustain their livelihoods has led to sickness and sometimes death and that of their animals.

The community claims that polluted water is affecting their health and causing illnesses and permanent injuries. Without piped water from the main supply, their primary source of water for drinking, washing, bathing and irrigating farms are the respective waters. The water is said to have been poisoned by a Chinese owned mine, China mining Company that has been operating in the area for ten years now.

Our environment and people can be polluted with impunity and the perpetrators tell us in our face that we are making noise by asking them to account for their actions.
What sort of a country are we, what values, principles or beliefs do we stand for or are ready to die for?

The company has been allegedly poisoned their only source of water from its careless copper mining operations. Toxic effluent flowing from the Tailings Leach Plant is supposed to be caught by a Pollution Control Dam. However, the dam is flowing directly into the waterways. The situation has angered the residents to stage a protest on September, 2nd, 2015 to petition government to deal with a Chinese Mining Company operating in the area over the continued pollution of the dam.
The residents petitioned Government through Chingola District Commissioner Philip Kalima. The effluent is highly toxic containing chemicals such as sulphuric acid and high levels of heavy metals.

The contaminated dam is also affecting fish and livestock which is another source of income for the people in the area.The district commissioner assured the residents that experts would soon be deployed to the area to investigate the concerns and come up with recommendations to the Government.

A team of experts was then dispatched to the area to ascertain the claims of the residents. The outcome of their investigation was “spin-chilling “by the country’s Environmental Agency. The claims of the residents had been proved spot on. Accordingly, the frequency and severity of spill is higher and more consistent. This prompted the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) to shut down the mining activities at the miming company.

Ironically, the inconsistencies in the country’s policies have aided the mining company to continue with operations, as the Ministry of Mines temporally barred the company from doing so for barely three days before the licence was restored. It is however, absurd for the mining firm to threaten the closure of its mining activities in Chingola following a pollution row with government agencies.

The decision by the mining firm to blackmail the agencies is an act of desperation on its part especially that the interests of the agencies is to protect the Zambian people.It is therefore imperative that the agencies do not bow down to these empty threats.

The victims of mining company’s water pollution are just one of many communities bearing the impact of Chinese careless style of operations worldwide.

The Chinese controlled operations especially in Africa have been punctuated in controversy ranging from abuse and lawlessness aided by poor policies by most countries on the continent.

It is therefore time the Zambian government and the legal system stood up to these life-threatening issues and hold the perpetrators to account for their actions.Having said that I do not want to pretend that the task will be any easier for the government agencies, we have seen it before that they have succumbed to political pressure and ended up backing what is wrong, a case in point is the Kafue steel plant in Kafue.

Most likely the Chinese mine will have it their way especially that government will not at this stage want to see any more job losses caused by issues which it can control.

Therefore such is the mammoth task facing these government agencies and if history is anything to go by I will not be a prophet of doom to say Chingola residents and Zambia in general is on the losing end, our environment and people can be polluted with impunity and the perpetrators tell us in our face that we are making noise by asking them to account for their actions.
What sort of a country are we, what values, principles or beliefs do we stand for or are ready to die for?

Yours

James Mwape (not real name)-Kafisali Village

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1 COMMENT

  1. In America and Europe non of this happens. These international corporations are fined to the bone so they don’t dare make the same mistakes. This is environmental pollution and should never happen as it affects people, the environment, animals and contributes to climate change. I blame the government for not having strict policies and regulations in place. There are environmental laws to be follow in how to conduct yourself in another country. A huge fine is what China needs. They are very much liable. The president is a lawyer, he can handle this.

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