By John Chola
FIRST Quantum Minerals (FQM) has initiated a new avenue of openly engaging and sharing pertinent information with the general public through various stakeholders on all matters pertaining to its operations in Zambia.
And FQM has won accolades from a cross-section of key civil society organisations (CSOs) non-governmental organisations (NGOs) representing the general public voices in Zambia for committing to a truly transparent policy.
FQM, in a rare gesture, becomes the first large-scale miner to create an avenue at which various stakeholders, NGOs and civic organisations would openly engage in deliberations about mining operations and how they affect the Zambian communities.
The first information sharing meeting held Tuesday at Lusaka’s Southern Sun hotel and attended by key NGOs and civil society organisations has since been described as a success.
FQM Country Manager General Kingsley Chinkuli reaffirmed his company’s commitment to continue engaging with various stakeholders and local communities, as part of an on-going process of transparency.
The meeting availed a rare opportunity to key players providing checks and balances to the mining sector to sit around the table and seek understanding on various pertinent issues that impact the communities as a result of mining activities wherever FQM operates.
Among the critical issues tabled at the meeting included environmental, health, corporate social responsibility, education, taxes and labour.
General Chinkuli underscored that FQM strongly believed that the information sharing meetings agreed to be held from time to time going forward, would help in bridging the information gap which has existed over time.
“Let me say at this point that FQM is a very good corporate citizen, law abiding and has brought into Zambia a lot of investment which has never been matched in the history of the country. So far, we have two mines – Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi and Sentinel Mine in Kalumbila whose combined production capacity makes FQM the biggest producer of copper in the country,” General Chinkuli said.
He added that at present, FQM had brought into Zambia a total of US$6.4 billion worth of investment.
“So far the taxes paid are US$3.85 million. Because the mine ownership structure of Kansanshi Mine is that FQM has 80 percent and the 20 percent is owned by the government of Zambia through ZCCM-IH, the dividends paid to ZCCM-IH from Kansanshi Mine’s inception amount to US$200 million. In terms of community investment, we have spent US$100 million since 2010,” General Chinkuli noted.
He also noted that FQM also faced some notable challenges particularly being a relatively new investor in Zambia but that the company was motivated by President Edgar Lungu’s visit to Sentinel Mine in Kalumbila on 1st June 2018 when he described his tour as an opportunity to see the challenges the mine was facing.
General Chinkuli said despite the challenges being faced, FQM was committed to its operations in Zambia.
He said some of the challenges FQM had to deal with were that the two mines were a low grade at 0.51 percent of copper ore which despite such a scenario were still able to produce about 470,000 tonnes combined total per year.
“The challenges you may wish to know are in form of taxation, power tariffs which are usually increased without negotiation besides power blackouts that result in damage of expensive equipment, additional levies, additional taxes etc.,” he added.
General Chinkuli lamented the difficulties FQM always encountered in obtaining new or renewing work permits for expatriates the mine so dearly needed to meet special unavailable skills in the country.
He described civil society organisations and NGOs as very important stakeholders who always played a critical role in informing the people on what was always obtaining on the ground
He said FQM was committed to listening and communicating with stakeholders and local communities directly about events, issues and ideas.
“Our mines have been hit in the past by stakeholders due to inadequate information hence we seek a forward and upward movement in engagement. We recognise that the people and communities affected by our business should benefit through opportunities such as employment, business development, education, training or community investment over the long term. Communities in our catchment areas are therefore given first priority,” General Chinkuli emphasised.
Mwiya Mwandawande from the Extractive Industry Transparency Alliance (EITA) which coordinated the meeting commended FQM for keeping an open-door policy.
Over 30 NGOs and civil society organisations attended the meeting, notable among them were Water Aid, Action Aid, Jesuit Center for theological reflection, Counterpart International, Extractive Industry transparent Initiative and Zambia Governance Foundation. – Courtesy of SUMA SYSTEMS.