Officials from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) have impounded six trucks carrying about 200 tons of manganese ore in Serenje. The trucks were coming from a mine that was closed by ZEMA in September 2022 for not complying with the Environmental Management Act No. 12 of 2011.
The Ministry of Green Economy and Environment also accompanied the ZEMA officers in inspecting manganese mining and mineral processing facilities, forest reserves, and meteorological infrastructure in Central Province. During the inspection, Minister of Green Economy and Environment Hon. Eng. Collins Nzovu, MP, praised the compliance levels of some manganese processing plants but expressed concern over the rise of illegal mining activities in Serenje District.
Serenje District has become a hotbed of illegal mining activities, leading to pollution that has impacted land, water, air, and human health. Recently, 28 employees of Southern Africa Ferro Alloys Limited were found with manganese poisoning. The Minister noted that the source of the poisoning had been traced, and the government was working with the mining companies to prevent any reoccurrence.
In a bid to reduce pollution and damage to the environment, manganese processing plants have implemented several measures. These measures include stopping the use of charcoal in manganese processing, installing pollution abatement equipment, providing personal protective equipment to employees, installing online air monitoring equipment, and suppressing dust emissions.
The Minister urged all manganese mining facilities to emulate what the manganese processing plants were doing. Compliance with the Environmental Management Act is now mandatory, and all employees must be tested for manganese levels in their blood every six months.
The Ministry revised the Environmental Management Act, and the bill is before Parliament undergoing legislative processes. The bill intends to reduce the cost of doing business by reducing the license fees and processing time. It also introduces stiffer punishments to deter environmental offenders.
During his visit to Silverland Farm in Nansanga Farming Block in Serenje District, the Minister also urged commercial farmers to work with the government to increase food production for local and regional markets. He encouraged farmers to implement carbon emissions offset projects on degraded areas, plant trees, and promote afforestation and environmental sustainability to reduce climate change impacts.
A representative of the commercial farmers, Mr. Jason Sawyer of Nyamanza Farming Limited, complained about the poor state of the road, rampant tree cutting for caterpillar harvesting, and constant load-shedding by Zesco, which affects their farming businesses. He called on the government to intervene to sustain their operations.