By MEMORY NYAMBE
FIRST Quantum Minerals (FQM) is opening its doors to key stakeholders in an information sharing initiative being conducted both on its mining sites and surrounding communities.
The development is aimed at clearing the misrepresentation of facts about mines, and at ending speculation based on rumours and hearsay.
Speaking in an Interview, FQM Kalumbila Minerals Limited Public Relations Coordinator Miriam Harmon has said the mine decided to have the information-sharing meetings with stakeholders on core operations and community development programmes.
“We have realised that most people, especially stakeholders, do not have the true information on what the mine is doing in terms of its contribution to the development of the communities. They only think the mine is only focused on making profits for itself and not ploughing back,” Ms Harmon explains.
She says this scenario is what prompted FQM to share information with stakeholders, through a plan to meet key Government departments, district administration, heads of departments, senior council officers, the church, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) as well as the media.
“Since the inception of this project, we have so far met with the CSOs in the extractive industry and the NGOs. We have met the district administration in Kalumbila headed by the district commissioner and Heads of Department for community development, education, health, and the council to clear the air by responding to all the pending questions they may have.”
Ms Harmon adds that FQM has opened its doors to the public and its communities to be part of its growth and create transparency, hence engaging departments from ministries of health and labour; environmental agencies and senior human resources officers to elaborate on work permits among other related matters.
“We have realised that most people do not have the time to read about what we do on social media or see on television; so we have decided to meet them face to face and talk in person through these information-sharing meetings scheduled with different stakeholders.”.
She further adds that it is not correct to assume that the mine does not encounter any challenges in its operations; especially with the power deficit that the country is grappling with, introduction of new taxes on mining and securing work permits for its expatriates with specialised skills.
“Out of all the challenges we are facing as First Quantum Minerals, we have continued working and not even considered laying off any workers to meet up with the demanding cost of production, we have strived to remain above the waters despite the circumstances.”
Kalumbila District Commissioner Robinson Kalota says the decision taken by FQM to embark on this initiative was a welcome strategy as it will promote transparency and enhance coordinated partnerships in development.
Mr Kalota adds that such initiatives should be emulated by all business entities in the district to avoid a situation where companies hide what they do in terms of operations and intentions for the host communities.
“It’s encouraging to see FQM take on this strategy of opening its doors to Government and give a clear picture of what they do and intend to do especially when it comes to projects such as the construction of classroom blocks or teachers’ houses which can be planned in tandem to some Constituency Development Funded projects than crashing on site,” he observed.
Mr Kalota has since urged all investors in Kalumbila district to consider engaging Government at all levels of planning than run back when difficulties arise, such as where to locate projects and what is most important for the people.
“It is important to involve Government from the initial stage of all projects so that there is no confusion in the process of handling issues in the spirit of transparency and orderliness,” he added.
In April of 2019, FQM held its first ever consultative meeting with CSOs in the extractive industry where some recommended that Government should consider engaging in more consultative and participatory processes when developing taxation regimes that affect all parties including the wellbeing of the host communities.
Among the objectives of the FQM information-sharing campaign is to increase engagement between the civil society and the mining sector through mining indabas; to offers new opportunities for dialogue on natural resources, governance and environmental management, labour and employment, local procurement, conflict resolution, information disclosure and how CSR generally can develop and prioritize the capacity of the community to participate in local resource governance and benefit from revenue generated in the sector. – Courtesy of SUMA SYSTEMS.