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Civil Society Organizations’ Response on the Zambian Government Position Regarding the Protection Order of the Chisola Dam Project in Kalumbila

Press Statement

In May, 2013, Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) issued an Environmental Protection Order pursuant to Section 104 of the Environmental Management Act (EMA) No. 12 of 2011 to First Quantum Minerals (FQM) who are the proponents of Kalumbila Minerals Limited in order to stop the illegal action by Kalumbila to construct the Chisola dam. Kalumbila Minerals Limited had commenced construction of the Chisola dam without the necessary approvals from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency as required by law.

Kalumbila Minerals Limited irregularly obtained 50,000 hectares of land for their project from Chief Musele in Solwezi District and submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the mine, which was approved in 2011.

Following approval of the mine, Kalumbila applied to ZEMA for approval for additional components to their project, which included the Chisola dam. However, concerns were raised regarding authorization of such a vast amount of land and compensation and resettlement issues of the people in the chiefdom that would be affected by the Kalumbila projects. For this reason, ZEMA suspended the process of construction of the proposed Chisola dam and associated projects so that the raised concerns and illegalities could be addressed.

It is with shock that this consortium of civil society organisations and the people of Musele have learnt of government’s decisions regarding the Protection Order on Chisola Dam through the media. Recent news reports indicate that the government, through the Land, Environment and Natural Resources Minister, Hon. Wilbur Simuusa, has given KML conditional permission to continue construction of the dam, which will cover 200 hectares of woodland. Even more shocking is the fact that the minister has given permission to KML to continue working on the project, despite the Protection Order issued by ZEMA. It is unacceptable that government can act arbitrarily, disregarding a professional institution that is mandated to ensure the protection of our environment and our people. It is an act of betrayal of the interests of citizens of a sovereign nation by those entrusted with responsibility to maintain law and order and ensure fairness and justice.

We do not understand why this government appears to be compromised or is seemingly being held at ransom by these mining companies. It appears our leaders have not taken the time to understand the mining industry and are therefore not able to effectively engage and negotiate with these mining companies and therefore appear to be negotiating from a point of weakness and are literally begging these companies to ransack our resources at the expense of our people, environment and our country.

We fail to understand how authorization can be given for FQM to go ahead with the dam and in the same breath, ask them to demolish it if it is later proved to be environmentally unsustainable. This is a clear indication of lack of wisdom and is tantamount to criminal negligence by our leaders.

It is important to note here that the work on this dam has already started and has been ongoing even with the Protection Order in place. We have photos taken last week where we saw graders clearing the land for the dam. How can anyone expect this land to be reclaimed after such damage?

We are also disappointed with the conduct of FQM who have proceeded with impunity to construct the dam and who have used threats to both government and the chief and people of Musele.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to read a letter written by FQM to Chief Musele, which is tainted with coercion, if not corruption, and should be the subject of an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It is therefore difficult to have confidence in the Ministerial Committee tasked to resolve the Kalumbila challenges because they are exhibiting double standards and failing to show leadership in this matter. It is expected that leaders of ministerial stature should show convictions and values that promote and protect the interests of Zambia and Zambians. This has not been the case in this matter.

When ZEMA issued its statement about the Protection Order in the third week of June, FQM/KML failed to engage with the Musele community. Instead it retaliated by threatening to retrench 500 workers working on the dam site. FQM issued redundancy notices to the workers and informed senior chief Musele that the workers would be laid off. According to its media statements, the company will now not go ahead with the lay-offs, but the company has still not engaged with the community about the legitimate concerns of the people.

It is very clear to those who care for the environment, morality and justice that FQM/KML have violated the Protection Order by carrying out projects that have not been approved either by the community or Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA). Ladies and gentlemen, it is also important to note that the Chisola Dam is only one of the projects included in KML’s Addendum submitted to ZEMA. Others include a water pipeline, a waste pipeline, a Tailings Storage Facility (TSF), a series of roads, etc.

But before consent could be given by the community and ZEMA, FQM/KML went ahead to execute the projects. The Government has, however, continued watching on the terraces as all these activities go on, keeping a low profile and not standing up for the environment and the people of Zambia.

We therefore challenge Honourable Wilbur Simuusa to inform this nation how the decision to disregard the Protection Order was arrived at, particularly in view of the revelations in the letter by FQM to Chief Musele. His letter to FQM for all intents and purposes, suggests this. It is our considered view that the Minister has no power to violate the Protection Order granted by ZEMA in exercise of its legal mandate. According to the Protection Order issued by ZEMA, a moratorium was placed on all government departments and regulators from making decisions on any FQM projects until the government intervention process is complete.

FQM’s conduct in this matter is not surprising because FQM’s corporate behaviour is a reflection of its flawed internal corporate governance system. This can quite easily be justified by the Company’s bad relationship and bad image with communities in the surrounding Kabitaka and Kakasha areas (near Kansanshi) in Solwezi.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me at this point to draw your attention to compensation regarding displaced communities in Musele (read out agreement).

The community in its submission to the ministerial task force illustrated that the Canadian company FQM did not comply with the laws of its own country in dealing with indigenous people, and failed to adhere to its own undertakings and policies including the Equator Principles which it purports to subscribe to. The community set out its legitimate demands in its submission to the ministerial task force. These include:

  • The recognition of its property rights under the community’s customary law,
  • Recognition of its right to development and determination of development projects on its communal land as recognized by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,
  • Strict compliance with the constitution and statutes of Zambia that require consultation, compensation and environmental protection,
  • Respect for and promotion of the decision making processes of the community in terms of the community’s customary law, and
  • If the community agrees that mining goes ahead, then there must at least be:
    • Absolute minimal displacement and dislocation and full reparation to all affected households and persons so that their livelihoods improve in a sustainable manner;
    • Community participation in monitoring remediation of environmental, social and economic impacts;
    • Community participation in benefits and ongoing participation in decision making.

For its part, the Musele Community has regularly informed Government on these adverse activities of the mining company. Therefore, it is surprising that Government can succumb to FQM’s deceptive, manipulative and illegal tactics by “discussing” and “negotiating” this without the involvement or knowledge of the affected local communities.

Is it not evident that even in their Environmental Impact Assessment Report, FQM/KML has not been honest as to the motive of their demands? Is their demand for the Chisola Dam genuine? We ask this because of the presence of the Musangejhi Dam, is it not adequate for their purposes? The latter is closer to the Sentinel Mine Pit than the Chisola, with an artificial lake of 2,432 hectares’ surface area (FQM’s own estimates).

On the 14th of February, 2013, the Ministerial Committee, sitting at a public meeting in Solwezi, chaired by Honourable Professor Nkandu Luo, made a public declaration in relation to the Kalumbila Mine Project land dispute. They informed the nation that First Quantum Minerals (FQM) had irregularly obtained excessive land from Senior Chief Musele, on account of which the Agreement was declared null and void.

A new road map to resolving the matter was put in place. Both FQM and the Musele Community were requested to submit their proposals on the way forward to the Ministerial Committee within forty-five days from the 14th February 2013. After that, the Ministerial Committee, on behalf of Government, undertook to bring the two parties to the negotiating table to iron out their concerns.

But that road map has not been followed to-date. The Musele Community made their submissions to the Ministerial Committee, while FQM/KML did not make any submission within the given period. While FQM through its subsidiary KML has continued undertaking activities in the geographical areas of dispute, the Musele Community has been left in the dark. Government has to-date failed to bring the two parties together. Instead, Government has chosen to “discuss” and “negotiate” with only one party (FQM/KML), totally ignoring the plight and concerns of the local Community, which remains genuinely aggrieved.

As civil society, we again note the lack of decisive leadership and leadership disorder in this country and we note that in this case, honourable Wilbur Simuusa and the Ministerial team has lamentably failed in resolving this problem, even with a specialized agency available to provide technical advice, he has opted to use his own wisdom, which is not in the interest of this country or the people of Zambia in general and Musele in particular. We demand that the Minister takes decisive action on this matter and clearly state to this nation and to FQM what he has allowed them to do or not to do. In the light of the foregoing, the CSOs in Zambia will not be swayed from these cardinal issues, which have already been laid out in submissions. The CSOs will not accept piece-meal solutions to the challenges, difficulties and problems that have deliberately been occasioned to the local communities.

The Chisola Dam is very much a key issue around Kalumbila. The main issues in contention between FQM/FML and the local communities have been brought to the attention of the Ministerial Committee and are contained in the Submissions Report. These include, but are not limited to land (surface) rights, security of tenure, displacements/resettlement, environmental concerns, reparation and compensation, terms and conditions of Agreements, etc. Until there is goodwill on the part of Government to fully and amicably resolve these contentious issues, the local and international CSOs will not accept any interventions by Government to protect a company that they themselves have clearly indicated has engaged in unauthorized activities regarding the disputed acquisition of the 518 square kilometres of land.

Finally let me mention that we are in consultations with the communities affected in Chief Musele to seek legal recourse in the Zambian Courts of Law as well international platforms on this matter should there be continued double standards by authorities tasked to protect the interests of the local Zambian people.

Statement prepared by:

1. Musele Community task Force

2. Action Aid Zambia

3. Centre for Trade Policy and Development

4. Extractive Industry Transparency Alliance

5. Southern Africa Resource Watch

6. Community Based Natural Resources Management Forum

7. Legal Resource Centre, South Africa

8. Bench-Marks Foundation, South Africa

9. MiningWatch Canada

10. International Alliance on Natural Resources

11. Association for Land Development

12. Zambia Climate Change Network

13. Women’s and Environs

14. Green Earth, Zambia

15. Earth Organization

16. Publish What You Pay Coalition

17. Centre for Environmental Justice

18. Caritas Zambia