FQMs Kalum­bila mine in pol­lu­tion quag­mire

Zambian Business Times - - MINING -

First Quan­tum Min­er­als (FQM) sub­sidiary Kalum­bila mine has been caught up in a pol­lu­tion quag­mire fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions by lo­cal com­mu­nity. As such the Zam­bia En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Agency – ZEMA has com­menced in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the claims by the lo­cal com­mu­nity lev­elled against FQM. IN re­tal­i­a­tion FQM has sus­pended so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity plans for part of a US$700,000 com­mu­nity wa­ter project. The lo­cal com­mu­nity is blam­ing FQMs Sen­tinel mine for nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring wa­ter qual­ity is­sues.

In a press re­lease is­sued by FQM’s pub­lic re­la­tions agent, nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring iron in the ge­o­log­i­cal struc­ture of the area has been a vis­i­ble chal­lenge in wa­ter in com­mu­nity bore­holes for over 2-decades, long be­fore min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties com­menced in the area. This is a well-known chal­lenge in ar­eas with sim­i­lar soils in Zam­bia, in par­tic­u­lar, large parts of North-West­ern and North­ern Prov­inces. Scientific anal­y­sis of the wa­ter con­firmed the nat­u­ral oc­cur­ring iron, which causes wa­ter dis­coloura­tion and a metal­lic taste. The iron oc­curs in most of the lo­cal soils and is not as a re­sult of min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. This is backed up by the ex­ten­sive long-term ground­wa­ter mon­i­tored pro­grammes ini­ti­ated by the com­pany be­fore op­er­a­tions be­gan.

In ad­di­tion, ab­nor­mally high rain­fall in the 2017/2018 rainy sea­son, and clear­ing of veg­e­ta­tion for farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties caused flood­ing of a grave­yard, which some vil­lage res­i­dents blamed on the mine, de­spite a sur­vey demon­strat­ing that the area was up­hill of the mine’s ac­tiv­i­ties.

“First Quan­tum strives to do the right thing and sup­port the com­mu­ni­ties that are our neigh­bours. This goes far be­yond our le­gal obli­ga­tions, but we are happy to pro­vide this so­cial in­vest­ment on a good­will ba­sis,” says FQM Coun­try Man­ager, Gen­eral Kings­ley Chinkuli.

“How­ever, on this oc­ca­sion, the pro­longed at­tack on our work has gone too far. It is mis­guided, un­fair, and dam­ages our rep­u­ta­tion as a good cor­po­rate cit­i­zen. On this ba­sis, we have sus­pended in­vest­ment in a wa­ter project un­til such time as we have the full sup­port of all in the com­mu­nity. We will, how­ever, con­tinue with a com­po­nent of the project, but only in di­rectly af­fected com­mu­ni­ties of the project. We are cur­rently re­view­ing our com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment ap­proach to avoid such un­fair ac­cu­sa­tions in future for projects that are well-in­tended. Our in­ten­tion is to con­tinue to do the right thing, but we must do so with­out putting the com­pany rep­u­ta­tion at risk.”

“First Quan­tum Min­er­als has a clear pol­icy of sup­port­ing the com­mu­ni­ties sur­round­ing its mines. It al­lo­cates mil­lions of dol­lars ev­ery year to help en­sure people have the ba­sic needs and tools with which they can build sus­tain­able liveli­hoods for them­selves,” said Gen­eral Chinkuli.

“We be­lieve that sup­port should be made in con­sul­ta­tion with the com­mu­ni­ties them­selves as part of their wider long-term strat­egy to em­power them­selves and ben­e­fit from the op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by the prox­im­ity to the mine,” Mr Chinkuli said, cau­tion­ing against lo­cal people be­com­ing de­pen­dent on char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions or see­ing the mine as re­spon­si­ble for their wel­fare be­yond le­git­i­mate rec­om­pense when people have been re­set­tled or di­rectly im­pacted by mine op­er­a­tions.

The ini­tial plans to up­grade wa­ter fa­cil­i­ties were the foun­da­tion’s hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse to re­cent con­cerns by the com­mu­nity about nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring wa­ter qual­ity is­sues and flood­ing.

Ear­lier in the year, the com­pany came to the aid of people in Musele and Kawe­langa vil­lage af­ter a flooded grave­yard threat­ened the com­mu­nity’s wa­ter sup­ply.

Above-av­er­age rain­fall, which was a third higher than nor­mal in the 2017/2018 rain­fall sea­son, caused a rise in the wa­ter ta­ble in the gen­eral area, lead­ing to pond­ing in a low-ly­ing grave­yard area near the vil­lage.

Fol­low­ing li­ai­son with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, and a thor­ough in­spec­tion of the wa­ter­logged site, the min­ing com­pany con­tracted North-West Wa­ter to pro­vide a bowser bring­ing fresh wa­ter to the stricken com­mu­nity mem­bers, who were wor­ried that their usual wa­ter sup­ply may be con­tam­i­nated by flood­ing from an ad­ja­cent ceme­tery.

Wa­ter ex­perts [from the Zam­bia En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Agency ( ZEMA), Wa­ter Re­sources Man­age­ment Author­ity ( WARMA) and the Depart­ment of Wa­ter Re­sources De­vel­op­ment] in­spected the site, which is more than 7km away from the com­pany’s Sen­tinel Mine in Kalum­bila. The grave­yard height is ~25m above the full-sup­ply level of the clos­est dam, and that flood­ing had been caused by in­creased ground­wa­ter-level and sur­face wa­ter run-off due to high rain­fall and dis­tur­bance of sur­round­ing veg­e­ta­tion. Fol­low­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, there have been no is­sues of con­cern pre­sented to the mine by the au­thor­i­ties.

The mine has nev­er­the­less un­der­taken an on-go­ing pro­gramme of bore­hole up­grades to help the com­mu­nity ad­dress the chal­lenge of access to clean and safe drink­ing wa­ter, in­clud­ing a tech­ni­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tion to lo­cate deep wa­ter bore­hole sites in Kalum­bila District. In 2017, the min­ing firm spent ~US$60,000 to re­pair 57 com­mu­nity bore­holes across the Musele Chief­dom. Re­pair­ing the bore­holes was iden­ti­fied as a need dur­ing an an­nual com­mu­nity needs as­sess­ment, fol­lowed up by a me­chan­i­cal sur­vey of all the bore­holes in Musele Chief­dom. The mine also works in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with Depart­ment of Wa­ter Re­sources De­vel­op­ment to un­der­take an­nual wa­ter qual­ity mon­i­tor­ing of 178 bore­holes in the lo­cal area, and the re­sults are dis­closed to the com­mu­nity. This is part of FQMs on-go­ing de­vel­op­ment work, strictly not to be mis­con­strued with any mine-re­lated im­pact. The pro­gramme aimed to com­ple­ment govern­ment ef­forts to in­crease access to clean and safe drink­ing wa­ter in com­mu­ni­ties in Kalum­bila district.

The min­ing firm says it be­lieves access to safe, clean wa­ter is the num­ber one pri­or­ity for com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment. Wa­ter is a ba­sic hu­man need, and should al­ways be pri­ori­tised over other forms of de­vel­op­ment work. Parts of this ar­ti­cle were orig­i­nally first car­ried on the Zam­bian Observer.

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