ENVIRONMENTALIST Peter Sinakmba has urged the government to act swiftly to prevent loss of thousands of lives to mining activities at the sinkhole near Mopani Copper Mines SOB shaft in Chamboli Township. But Wusakili member of parliament Pavyuma Kalobo says he is against burying the sinkhole before an alternative source of income is found for the youth that scavenge for copper ore at the condemned facility.
Mopani has mined out the entire beneath of the surface that has caved in to create a sinkhole, which illegal miners from Chamboli and Wusakili have invaded to scavenge for copper ore. Mopani chief technical services officer Jacob Banda recently said sinkhole was a death trap as the thin pillar between the surface of the sinkhole and the mined out tunnels could easily give in and kill up to 1,000 people at a go. Experts have recommended that the place be buried but the miners and the community have vowed to be buried there because that is their only source of income while politicians from the ruling party keep skirting around the issue with conflicting statements without a definitive solution to the matter.
But Sinkamba yesterday described the whole issue as a looming disaster.
Sinkamba said the disaster in waiting was a responsibility of the government and urged action.
“The looming disaster in Chamboli Township where thousands of youth risk losing their lives for mining in a caved area is entirely a responsibility of the Zambian government. I therefore call upon government to take urgent measures through the Zambia Mining and Environment Remediation and Improvement Project (ZMERIP), which is funded by the World Bank, to avert a national disaster at Chamboli,” Sinkamba said.
“I say so because the sinkhole in Chamboli where youth are scavenging copper ores is a historical liability which has been a source of safety concern from the 1980s. When ZCCM used to run the mines on the Copperbelt, caving in in that area was a problem and I have got correspondence to this effect. Some houses were demolished and tenants were moved to safe areas, at the time the houses were cracking and showing signs of potential sinking. That was the main concern. So before the advent of scavenging copper ores, the initial safety concern from 1980s to 2016 was cracking of houses due to subsidence. Now, with the ongoing scavenging activities, the danger is eminent.”
He said he raised the issue of subsidence in Chamboli concerning houses in ‘J’ section where more than 300 houses were affected.
“… I know for a fact that funds are there to address the looming disaster in Chamboli if only government is proactive and caring for the lives of those youth. There is more than US$50 million to address both environmental and social challenges in that area. Put simply, the whole problem in Chamboli rests squarely on government’s shoulders, and government should take urgent steps now,” said Sinkamba who is also Green Party president.
Meanwhile, Kalobo said: “Mopani’s primary concern is safety, so there must be ways to make the place safe for the people working there. For me burying is not welcome because we must find them an alternative for their activities. So my position is not to bury until something else is found. Safety is also good but the cost of burying that thing is bigger than making it safe for the youth to work. We are ready to sit and chart the way forward.”