MINES minister Christopher Yaluma has revealed that the government has contracted a US$65.6 million from the World Bank to use in combating environmental degradation in Kabwe and Mufulira towns.
Yaluma, who featured on ZNBC TV’s Sunday Interview programme, said the government was keen on safeguarding the environment while allowing mining activities in specific parts of Zambia.
The current situation, when a mine is about to be opened, we ensure that they meet all the required plans. As they go on running the mine, they must ensure that whatever will be the impact of environmental degradation are addressed and they must keep on doing that, remediating those problems as they go by. As a government, we have instituted an environmental protection fund which is paid by mines; it is quite huge! [It is] to ensure that should they (mine owners) run away without reinstating whatever will be the issues, we’ll use that money to reinstate. Now, that is for current,
He regretted that in the past, the environment, like in Kabwe, was left degraded and that nothing was done by the people who were mining there.
“They left the mines. In those areas where that has impacted on the health of the people or the infrastructure in the area, we have gone ahead and said we must now redress those issues. What we are doing right now; I’ll give an example of Kabwe, there is a lot of presence of lead in the atmosphere, in the soil which has been inhaled, which is quite deadly should you go above the limit! Some of them have gone above the limit but by the grace of God, they are still alive,” Yaluma noted.
So, we’ve obtained a loan from the World Bank of about US$65.6 million to go in and remediate those mining and environmental problems which are present up to date in Kabwe and in Mufulira arising from sulphur dioxide emissions.
He stressed that before any mine was allowed to start operations, a re-settlement plan for the displaced population had to be submitted to the Ministry of Mines.
That is something which is tackled before even a mine starts. In compilation of the Environmental Impact Assessment, there’s where it requires a re-settlement plan which should be given and demonstrate how they gonna do it and that is submitted prior to the starting of the mine, otherwise we’ll never allow a mine to kick-start when such things are not addressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment,
And Yaluma said Zambia was in the process of enacting a law that would compel all mining houses to disclose their tax contributions to the revenue body, the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).
I must brief you that Zambia has subscribed to the Extractive Industry Transparency; it is an institution which is now resident in most of the mining countries all over the world. The point is all what they (Extractive Industry Transparency) are trying to do is to bring in accountability and transparency on the part of players in the mining industry; the mining houses and the government. Whatever the mining houses are paying in form of tax to the government, that tax collected by the government must be known to the people of that country and at the same time, accountability is needed so that the people know where the money is being spent. So, the mining houses must disclose how much they have paid to the government and the government must disclose to the nation how much they have collected and where they took that money-on what projects; we’ve to disclose that!
“All this is to enable transparency and accountability but it (the law) is not yet enacted and so, there is a gap. What we are trying to do now is to legislate that so that everybody will be compelled to disclose that information. Remember this is something which was being discussed all over the world and a resolution has been made that we have to do that and we are going to do that.”
Meanwhile, on the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines-Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) and First Quantum Minerals (FQM) out-of-court settlement debate, Yaluma said: “I wouldn’t like to discuss that because that thing is still under discussion and you know, it’s yet to be resolved, though they’ve advanced [but] I wouldn’t like to talk about that. That thing was in court and it hasn’t yet been done away with from the courts-we wouldn’t want to talk about it!”