MAC: Mines and Communities

Zambia: Government rejects toxic imported copper concentrates

Published by MAC on 2015-07-14
Source: Lusaka Times

This example of using contaminated copper concentrate at one of its smelters isn't the only one in the history of Vedanta (parent of Zambia's KCM).

Since 1995, the company's notorious Tuticorin copper smelter in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, has done the same thing. It's imported copper concentrate from Australia, knowing full well it contained significant amounts of radioactive uranium ore.

Why did it do so?

Look no further than the fact that Vedanta obtained a "contamination discount" (sic) in return. According to reputed Tamil Nadu campaigner and researcher, Nityanand Jayaraman, this discount saved the company more than US$1.15 million. See:

See previous article on MAC: Vedanta's Zambia unit seeks to shift liabilities to state

[Note update to story posted below on 15 September 2015]

Government rejects toxic imported copper concentrates

Lusaka Times

8 July 2015

Government has with immediate effect denied Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) permission to process about 2,000 tonnes of imported copper concentrate as it contains high percent levels of arsenic, a toxic substance.

Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Christabel Ngimbu, says the decision has been arrived at following inspection of the said concentrate which was found to be containing 4 per cent of Arsenic.

Mrs Ngimbu says the levels of arsenic, which was found in the said consignment, is seven times more than that found in copper concentrates in Zambia which averages around 0.5 per cent.

The minister charged that the elevated levels of arsenic in the said imported copper concentrate would pose a serious environmental health and safety risks owing to the toxic nature of the substance.

In May this year, KCM imported into Zambia about 2,000 tonnes of the said copper concentrate in question for processing at its KCM Smelter at Nchanga in Chingola.

And Mrs Ngimbu has urged KCM to make necessary required arrangements to return the said consignment to the country of origin.

Mrs Ngimbu has further advised all relevant government agencies to closely monitor the situation.

She said government is committed to ensure that the people and the environment are protected from all environmental risks associated with mining.

Mrs Ngimbu has meanwhile called on all companies in the country to adhere to operational laws on the importation of goods that are toxic in nature.

Zambia orders Vedanta unit to get rid of Chilean copper

Cecilia Jamasmie

14 September 2015

The government of Zambia has ordered Vedanta Resources' Konkola Copper Mines to get rid of all copper concentrate it has imported from Chile, as it said the material contains had high levels of arsenic, a toxic substance.

The country’s environmental management authority had asked the company in June to delay the processing of those concentrates, as it found arsenic levels to be around 4%, higher than the 1% usually found in locally mined copper.

the authority asked KCM to submit a full plan for sending the material back to Chile or to other smelting facilities outside Zambia by Friday.

According to Reuters, the authority asked KCM to submit a full plan for sending the material back to Chile or to other smelting facilities outside Zambia by Friday.

Konkola acquired about 5,000 tonnes of copper concentrates from Chilean state-owned Codelco, the world’s top producer, with the intention of smelting the semi-processed material at the Nchanga smelter, which has an annual production capacity of 311,000 tonnes.

KCM resorted to imports of copper concentrates because its Nchanga smelter was operating at only about half its capacity.

Vedanta’s unit had been blending its concentrates with those from other local mines and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but these have not been enough to reach the Nchanga smelter's capacity.

KCM accounts for more than 30% of the country's total copper output and Zambia is Africa’s second copper producer.

Neither Codelco nor KCM were immediately available to comment on the decision at the time of publishing this story.

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