By JOHN SAKALA
Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) has expressed its displeasure with the poor corporate governance exhibited by First Quantum Minerals after the mining firm disputed the findings of SARW.
SARW Country Coordinator Edward Lange said that it was disappointing that the mining firm is saying that it was not consulted when it was contacted but failed to pop up.
“Our report raises three fundamental problems; Firstly poor consultation process with communities and poor resettlement and compensation skims. Secondly, possibility that water in the boreholes it provided to communities might be polluted because of its mining activities. Thirdly, poor and very low standard infrastructure for schools and clinic with no basic hygiene around them. The fourth one being, the expansion of its tailing dam pushing communities out of their land and affecting food security.
“First Quantum has chosen to only dispute only one issue–our assertion that water consumed by the communities we visited might be polluted. It is quite on other serious human right abuses such building schools with no toilets, maintaining a school with no windows or doors, failing to relocate a community that clearly needs to be relocated, failing to provide the necessary amenities to a community relocated as per agreement. FQM has chosen to focus on water because it is an easy escape in the absence of agreed scientific testing results,” he said
Mr Lange said the SARW report is simply a collection of views from communities visited, civil society and labour leaders met.
He said SARW reported on what they heard and what saw.
“First Quantum claims that it was not consulted. This is not true. Before undertaking the Solwezi study, SARW contacted the company, and requested to meet and discuss visiting the mine and the social investment projects. The company representatives agreed but then failed to show up. SARW again requested that the company meet researchers when they were in the field.
“The company responded by saying that there was nobody available to meet in Solwezi as all the key people were out of the country. The company also refused to provide the researchers with details of its Zambian managers who could speak on behalf of the company. However, the company was able to provide broad outlines of its CSR programmes through email correspondence, and details available on websites and in annual sustainability reports (which the company sent from its Toronto office). The company was not prepared to give any time to discuss with the researchers involved in assessing its CSR programmes,” he said.
He said one of the SARW recommendations was that ZEMA must urgently establish whether underground water in mining areas in Kansanshi, is polluted.
“We would like to reiterate that First Quantum CSR investment in Kansanshi is not transforming the lives of people but simply keep them in poverty. We wish to, therefore, challenge FQM to join SARW on a report validation mission in the communities visited in Kansanshi to verify the findings,” he said.