MAC: Mines and Communities

Vedanta on the block in Zambia

Published by MAC on 2006-11-16

Vedanta on the block in Zambia

16th November 2006

Last month, as reported in detail on this site, the US Blacksmith Institute identified what it called "world's most polluted places". One of these is the Kabwe region of Zambia, blighted by heavy metals (in particular lead and cadmium) which are estimated to affect 250,000 people.

We pointed out then that, though the lead operations have been closed down, "...toxic disharges have recently been identified as continuing into the region's main river from a copper tailings leach plant operated by UK-listed Vedanta Resources'"

Now, barely a month afterwards, Vedanta has been accused by the Zambian environmental authourities of putatively criminal negligence at precisely this site.

Zambia: KCM Negligence Blamed for Kafue River Pollution

The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

15th November 2006

THE pollution of Kafue River following the bursts of pipelines at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) was as a result of negligence by the mining firm, which has failed to replace pipes since the days of ZCCM.

Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources Minister Kabinga Pande said this in a ministerial statement in Parliament yesterday.

Mr Pande said the pipelines, each nine kilometers long, had deteriorated resulting into the burst and discharge of highly acidic effluents into the Kafue river.

This led to domestic water supply in Chingola being disrupted as utility firms suspended abstraction of water from the river.

"The situation experienced recently is not accidental but is as result of the failure by the current mine owners to implement the KCM Nchanga Mine Environment Plan (EMP) that was inherited from the Anglo-American Corporation, the previous owners of the mines," said Mr Pande.

The EMP was developed in 2001 with the consultation of the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ) and Mines Safety Department.

Some of the measures in the plan were the regular cleaning up of drainage channels and the use of lime to neutralise acidic spills in the event of an emergency.

Mr Pande said during the time of the incidence, KCM did not have lime in stock. He, however, said KCM could have imported lime from other countries.

He said during the inspections to the mines in June this year, it was discovered that the firm was not observing some of the remedial measures in full.

"As a result, the ECZ gave KCM a deadline of December 31, 2006 in which to reach full compliance or face sanctions as stipulated in the law," said Mr Pande.

The ECZ on November 8 cancelled the pollution licence for KCM so as to curb the endangering of life and the environment.

He, however, said KCM was currently de-silting the Chingola stream, starting with a section at the bridge. Mr Pande said the pollution licence to KCM would only be re-instated if the mining firm took remedial measures to avert such occurrences.

"It is, therefore, a must for KCM to de-silt the pollution control dam so as to bring spillway effluent discharges in compliance with the requirements of the law," he said.

He also said KCM should install new transfer tailings to ensure those pipe bursts were prevented.

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