CARE for Nature Zambia says the increase of unregulated mines throughout the country is causing loss of revenue, child labour and women exploitation.
Executive director Nsama Musonda Kearns stated that it was also threatening to cause land degradation, pollution of water bodies, wildlife habitats and depletion of minerals which have multiplier negative effects on agriculture, water and sanitation, tourism, mining, health and education with potential to cripple the country’s economy in the long run.
“African leaders have gathered in Cape Town, South Africa at the Africa Mining Indaba which runs from 3rd to 6th February 2020 to discuss the future of mining in Africa under the theme: Investing in Africa. For over 10 years, leaders have been meeting to discuss how best mining can benefit Africans especially in the local communities where minerals are being extracted,” she noted. “Mining is no doubt a big economic driver which creates revenue, forex and jobs, but it also comes with huge environmental, social and economic challenges if it is not well conducted and regulated.”
Kearns stated that in Zambia a lot of communities on the Copperbelt and Central Province were suffering from pollution legacies created from over 100 years of mining and smelting metals.
She stated that Kabwe and Mufulira were among the most polluted towns in the world with thousands of residents suffering from serious health issues, including land and water pollution which has affected their livelihoods.
Kearns stated that from a human rights perspective, communities have the rights to access and utilise mineral resources but that this should be done in line with all the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern mining.
“It is quite certain that if artisanal and small-scale mining is well regulated it can contribute to employment creation and poverty reduction in line with the Seventh National Development Plan and Sustainable Development Goals,” she stated.
“Unlike what we are witnessing today where communities are engaged in mining without licences or knowledge in mining, no geological information causing them to mine anyhow and no knowledge on health, safety and environment which is causing injuries and deaths contrary to the mines and minerals development Act, the environmental management Act and the labour laws of Zambia communities need to be well informed and equipped with knowledge and skills for mining to thrive.”
She called on mines minister Richard Musukwa who led the Zambian delegation to the Indaba to adequately invest in coordinating and regulating the Artisanal and Small Scale mining sector through issuance of licences, knowledge and skills development in geology, entrepreneurship, value addition and marketing and health, safety and environment including provision of investment capital through mines development grants and loans.
“The ASM sector provides the largest labour force which can drive the economy, improve living standards of communities and generate income to take children to school where they belong,” she stated.
Kearns stated that Care for Nature Zambia was adding its voice to investing in African communities at this year’s Indaba through the Tunatazama Community Monitors report which is supported by Benchmarks Foundation of South Africa.
“Every year community monitors throughout Africa write and collect stories about mining to help raise awareness on the challenges that communities living near mines face and to influence policy changes and implementation both at national and regional level.
“It is our sincere hope that important meetings such as the Africa Mining Indaba will contribute to community development and investment in Africa,” stated Kearns.