The Zambia Chamber of Mines (ZCM) has noted with deep concern the invasion of CNMC Luanshya Copper Mines open pits, namely Roan Extension West and Baluba East on the copperbelt by illegal miners.
Illegal miners in their hundreds, some as young as 10 years old with no proper protective equipment required in a mining environment are claiming that the government has given them the said open pits as youth empowerment.
Chamber of Mines President, Dr Godwin M Beene said these pits are structurally sensitive due to previous underground mining operations and therefore, there is risk of the ground caving in during their illegal and unprofessionally designed digging.
If left unchecked, this action has the potential to erode investor confidence in that it has created an impression that investor property in Zambia can easily be appropriated by politicians. These illegal activities are not only posing a threat and danger to our member’s operations and installations within the mine area but have also reduced the company’s ability to meet its scheduled production target for the 2021 production year. There is also the reputational risk to the country as a source of ethically mined minerals free from child labor and unsafe work practices.
CNMC Luanshya Copper Mines Plc. is a holder of large-scale mining for Roan Basin (License No. 8396-HQ-LML) Roan Extension West (License No. 8395-HQ-LML) and Baluba East (Licence No. 8392-HQ-LML). The three Mine Licence Areas are part of the seven oxide caps under Muliashi Mine which provide oxide ore material to Muliashi plant for processing into finished copper cathode. Mine Management has invested USD 2.32 million, USD3.42 million and USD 18.21 million to develop the three open pits respectively.
Baluba East pit was invaded on 12th June 2021 while the Mine Management was waiting to resume production after the rainy season. Roan Extension was invaded on 24th July 2021 when production was temporarily halted to allow for drilling in order to probe the pillar size between the old mined out areas below and the open pit depth limit.
There is a presence of over 300 illegal miners claiming to have been authorised by well-known politicians in Luanshya.
Prior to the 2021 general elections, CNMC Luanshya Copper Mines Plc had on several occasions reported this matter to relevant Government regulatory and security departments, namely, Mine Safety Department, ZEMA, Luanshya District and Copperbelt Provisional Police Command and Luanshya District Commissioner to help to mitigate the situation but to no avail.
The illegal mining operation at our Member Mine, if left unresolved will shorten the life span of the Mine and hence close it prematurely resulting in job losses and a negative impact on livelihoods in Luanshya. Currently CLM employs over 2000 people, inclusive of contractors. The illegal mining will also likely raise the rehabilitation costs of Mine closure as required under the environment act.
It is the intention of CNMC Management to continue with operations and contribute to the economic and social development of this country. However, these illegal activities have the potential not only to totally disrupt operations and affect our member’s production but also put lives of these illegal miners themselves and the vendors, taxi drivers and children that follow them into the work area at risk.
We are saddened and deeply disappointed to learn of this illegality. We do not believe that any government in our Republic can sanction this illegal operation as a way of empowering Zambian youths. We therefore implore government through the Ministry of Mines to treat this situation as a criminal activity and protect the investor by removing all illegal miners. As both the lives of our citizens and the investor confidence are at stake, we are confident that government will treat this matter with the urgency it deserves.