Manganese mining companies in Luapula Province, including one owned by information minister Kennedy Sakeni, have been wantonly exploiting resources at the expense of poor people, a new report shows.
Sakeni owns a shoddy mining company called Sakeni Mining Ltd, which was established in 2002 and has mining rights for lead and manganese ore mines located in Mansa.
According to a report released Monday, researchers from the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW), who were investigating the impact of manganese mining, reveal that mining companies in the province were operating unchecked, leaving a legacy of devastation and desperation in their wake.
“Manganese miners act with impunity – uprooting communities, destroying farmers’ livelihoods, wrecking the environment, providing no local benefits and paying far too little in taxes and levies,” Edward Lange, SARW’s Zambia Coordinator, said.
“What people do not realise is that most of these are Zambian companies, owned by MPs or government ministers, and they act just as badly as foreign companies – if not worse.”
While foreign mining companies are routinely criticised for abusive behaviour and damaging practices in Zambia, researchers have found that Zambian-owned manganese companies in northern Luapula province are just as exploitative – plundering the area’s mineral reserves.
Zambian manganese is said to be the best in the world and could be a key driver of economic growth and development in Luapula.
But instead, the report charges that it is enriching a tiny elite while leaving local communities struggling to survive – and creating a potentially explosive situation as regulations relating to the environment, compensation and resettlement are violated with impunity.
“Manganese occurs in small pockets so companies move rapidly from one place to another without giving a second thought to the damage they leave behind,” said Lange. “The companies do not seem to care about the impact of their work on increasingly angry communities – ruined crops, huge empty pits and health problems – since they are not going to suffer any consequences from their appalling corporate behaviour.”
There are about 150 prospecting and mining rights holders in Luapula province and most of these companies are owned by Zambians and operated by foreigners but, according to the report, most companies operate without any prior consultation with local communities or chiefs.
“Contrary to all established mining practice, the manganese companies obtain their licenses from the Ministry of Mines in Lusaka and then unilaterally begin work with no discussions with the affected communities,” said Lange.
“While these mining companies make a big profit from our God-given resources, we continue to live in poverty with no schools, no hospitals and other important services,” said Chief Chimese of Mansa district.
“This situation cannot be allowed to continue,” said Lange, querying: “How can Zambia be a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative when the government allows manganese miners to act in such an indefensible way?”
Additional information from PANA