Zambia warns mines on pollution
Lusaka – The US$2 million water pollution fine recently handed down against Konkola Copper Mines, a unit of Vedanta Resources Plc, should serve as warning to all mining companies, the Zambian government has said.
Local Government and Environmental Protection Minister Nkandu Luo says mining companies should desist from polluting the country’s water sources and profiteering at the expense of human lives.
Recently, the High Court in Lusaka slapped a US$2 million fine on Zambia’s largest miner by output, Konkola Copper, for polluting Mushishima River.
Mushishima River is one of the major water sources to more than 2 000 people in Chingola Town.
This prompted the government to warn all mining companies to learn from the verdict meted on the miner.
Minister Luo said she was happy with the verdict on the matter that had been in court since 2006.
Supreme Court judge Phillip Musonda, sitting as a High Court judge, ordered Konkola to pay US$800 to each person as general damages and US$200 to each individual as punitive damages.
Justice Musonda reprimanded Konkola Copper Mine over pollution of Mushishima River and asked the firm to compensate the affected communities.
He was delivering judgement in a matter in which James Nyasulu and 2 000 others were suing Konkola for polluting Mushishima with copper sulphate in 2006.
The group also sued Zambia Environmental Management Agency and Chingola Municipal Council but those cases were discontinued.
After signing a petition by African civil society organizations from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania,
Malawi and Zambia – operating as the African Caravan of Hope en route to the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) meeting in Durban, South
Africa – Minister Luo said government would act sternly against pollution.
She added that the government was monitoring activities along Kabompo River, which has allegedly been contaminated by a named mining company.
However, Luo said the fine was small compared to the damage done and lives affected. “The judgement has set the right tone so that those that have been abusing our environment, doing things that affect our people, will know that government is serious,” she said.
The government has in recent months been working with several industries contributing to environmental degradation to reduce pollution.
This is the second time Konkola has been penalized for pollution.
Last year, the miner was ordered to pay more than
US$4 000 for pollution arising from its operations.
Minister Luo expressed concern that pollution in the Kabompo River, which feeds into the Zambezi River, would affect hundreds of thousands of people. Luo said Africa had suffered too many historical wrongs at the hands of the developed world, which used Africans as “slaves” to industrialize their countries after which they colonized the continent.
She said Africa did not want the West’s sympathy but for the latter to acknowledge its crimes and compensate the continent.
“Africa is paying for crimes they have not committed and the poor people are suffering most. So we must speak with one voice.”
Luo added that the demand for climate justice should not be taken lightly.
Zambia Climate Change Network chairperson Noah
Zimba asked the Zambian government to make climate change issues a priority.
The Caravan of Hope left Kigali three weeks ago and headed to Durban by road. They are collecting signatures from people to form the African voice to compel developed countries at
COP17 to compensate Africa for the destruction of the environment and effects of climate change. According to findings by scientists and activists, say climate change, resulting from increased industrial activities in developed Western nations, is responsible for increasing temperatures, droughts and unpredictable weather.