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Zambian MCM invests US$2.2 billion in environmental clean up

Zambian mining company, Mopani Copper Mines (MCM), has invested more than US$2.2bn in the first two phases of its Mufulira smelter upgrade project, which has aimed to increase sulphur dioxide capture from zero to 51 per cent

MCM chief executive officer Danny Callow said, “This is further demonstration of Mopani’s commitment to address the problem of sulphur dioxide, which has affected the community in Kankoyo, Mufulira, for more than 80 years since the first smelter was commissioned in the early 1930s.”

Construction of the smelter upgrade project, which is due to be completed by next year, is currently in its third phase, which will further raise the capture of sulphur dioxide from 51 to 97 per cent.

Callow said, “Following concerns from the community in Butondo township regarding operations of the Mufulira West Heap Leach Project earlier this year, MCM started engaging the community through a multi-stakeholders’ forum that was initiated by two civil society organisations, the Citizens for Better Environment and the Southern Africa Resource Watch.

“Other stakeholders included the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) and the community of Butondo and we have been committed to the process since then,” he added.

MCM donated equipment valued at more than US$7,000 in order to enable the community and all stakeholders to carry out independent monitoring of the acid mists levels and ascertain whether it conformed with the recommended World Health Organisation (WHO) standard.

Prior to the procurement of the equipment, a number of interventions to mitigate any possible mist from the heap leach had been put in place.

The firm had installed an automatic interlocking system, complete conversion from spraying to drip irrigation of acid, covering of the heap with tarpaulins, and the planting of trees around the project.

Additional interventions that are being finalised include the erection of the barrier near the ponds.

Mayor of Mufulira, Yoram Zulu, has welcomed the “mammoth donation” as a good gesture that responds to the community’s call for a pollution-free environment. The donation comprised of a Dragger X-act 500 automatic sampling pump, Held Dragger Occur 200 pump, and five packets, each containing ten acid mist tubes.

ZEMA closed MCM’s Heap Leaching Mine in March 2012 in the wake of complaints from residents of Butondo of massive pollution through acid mists that allegedly affected their health. The plant, however, was reopened a month later after the agency was satisfied that MCM had met the stipulated recommendations to end the environmental anomaly.

Nawa Mutumweno