Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Government of Zambia: An Accessory to Lies by Investors?

His Royal Highness Chief Sokoongo goes through the report shortly after it was presented to him at his Palace. PHOTO/ER

The Council of Churches in Zambia have embarked on a campaign which interrogates whether Zambia has reached the time to mine and Mill Uranium Ores which by and large has drawn much interest in the public domain. Since the launch of the report titled “Prosperity unto Death: Is Zambia ready for Uranium Mining?” the government of the republic of Zambia has taken sides with the investors who are in literal manner lying to the people on the dangers imposed and which the people of Zambia in the areas earmarked for and where such activities have begun will and are exposed to...

Accessory to Lies 
The behaviour the Ministry of Mines seems to have turned out as the big PR wing of these mining companies. In the recent past, the Government of the Republic of Zambia the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Mines’ office have rained ‘hail-storm’ on the information dissemination on the findings of the report to the point of threatening officers at the Council of Churches in Zambia.

Yesterday, the Minister assured the Equinox group that their investment is safe in Zambia, but does not worry about the safety of his country men and women being exposed to the radiation that will result from these mining and processing activities. 

Who tells a Lie?

Yesterday's Post Newspaper (one of the local Newspapers) entitled Equinox president notes misinformation on uranium mining attributed to Graig Williams, the president of Equinox Minerals Limited leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the issues attributed to Graig Williams include statements like... "Mining uranium was not dangerous to the country’s environment or people living near the mine." 

This is the same statement that was made in their bulletin, which forms one appendix of the report. 

If indeed this were the case, why would the country have bothered to try and go out of its way (which it did not successfully manage to) to try and abide by the rigorous International Atomic Energy Agency's stipulations?
Williams goes further and says, “We have recently heard in Zambia that mining uranium is dangerous… the fact is that the level of uranium we are mining is very low and so, environmental, health and safety risk is very low and we have very rigorous programme in place to ensure the safety of our people and the community. That is not an issue,” said Williams.

Reality and Lies

If you visit their web site on, you'll see that they are talking of high-grade uranium at 1,000 ppm. 

Now ask Williams or any staff from the Ministry of Mines what levels of uranium are referred to as low-grade(?). Some extracts from the site are pasted below:  Lumwana Overview – Mining  during 2009 totals mine material moved was 81.2 million dry metric tonnes. 

The strip ratio averaged 5.2:1 and 13.1 million tonnes of ore were mined at an average head grade of 0.95% copper. Mining and stockpiling of uranium mineralization continued throughout the year. 
At year end the uranium ore stockpile on the ROM pad was approximately 2.5 million tonnes of 1,000ppm uranium and 0.8% copper.

Equinox & Zambian Uranium Mining Venture

In 2008, Equinox completed a uranium feasibility study (UFS) investigating the onsite treatment of discrete, high grade uranium mineralization contained within the Lumwana mine copper pitshells. 

The UFS confirmed the potential viability of onsite uranium treatment, producing about 2 million pounds of uranium per year over a six to seven year period (End of Extract).
Williams further alleges “I think there has been a campaign of disinformation on uranium that is not based on fact. The fact is that we have gone through a vigorous environmental approval by Environmental Council of Zambia and we have applied international standards and our project has got all that.”

Insulting Zambians
Such statements are insulting to the Zambian people. The government of the day is playing along as oblivious as can be which raises a number of concerns. The most interesting thing is that the same company, Equinox Mines started stockpiling of Uranium Ore two years even before the legal instrument [which does not ensure protection of persons] was in place.
What criteria was used to allow them continue with this activity when there were no policies in place to ensure the safety of workers, leave alone the safety of the community members? The story have been told for a long time that transportation of Uranium has to be done under strict oversight, if Copper transported down-south is mixed with radioactive minerals yet transported unsealed – what untold dangers are we supposed to speculate people are exposed to?

Even the Environmental Council of Zambia - ECZ, to who reference has been made; do not have such information of very high grade uranium (of 1,000 ppm). But if they do then to stand the test of time; they must show it to the public, particularly to the persons who are interested in the truth to see that ECZ is well equipped to handle this kind of mining and the eventualities.

This grade is TOO HIGH to treat the issue of stock-piled uranium so casually..!

Related Articles:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Canadian Envoys to Kenya & Tanzania: Uninformed or Arrogant?

WE HEAR YOU: Mines Ministers, representatives from mineral ministries, chamber of minerals and civil society organisations listening to the speakers at the African Mining Partnership in Cape Town - February 2010. PHOTO/ER

BADLY-INFORMED Diplomats! This is the only word – compound word I could find to describe ho w I felt when I read the press statement issued by the two Canadian High Commissioners in Kenya and Tanzania respectively.

The press release was issued to counter the article that appeared on the East African, 1st to 7th March 2010 issue. The article in question addressed a number of issues that have been reported in the past with relations to Canadian extractive industry operating abroad.

Diplomatic ignorance on issues
Titled, “Canadian firms dominate mining activities in Africa – and have a bad human rights record” and quoting issues on the ground in British Columbia, Zambia, DRC, Kenya and Tanzania highlighting the escalating levels of gross human rights violations.

The critics of this excellent article said, "We feel that the article drew some erroneous conclusions based on false or partial information. We would like to make it clear that Canada’s commercial priority is to attract investors into the country through a number of fiscal measures.
There is, however, no specific policy that encourages Canadian mining companies to invest abroad as the article insinuated. Further, the Canadian government supports transparency and welcomes independent investigations of mining companies’ activities.”

Focusing on the highlights of some of the atrocities that have been named after the Canadian Extractive Industry abroad particularly in East and Central Africa; I would add my voice on the same on even more serious cases in Papua New Guinea, Honduras, Guatemala and other countries which I will not mention to save the space!

Canada have for decades now been spitting right on the face of local communities under the same old facade of “Canadian mining activities in Africa (are) a force for good.”


This statement in itself shows how misinformed the two diplomats sent to the East African countries are to the specific social, economic and environmental needs of community members where multinational investments in the mining sector from Canada are hosted in African countries.


Diplomatic arrogance

The ‘force for good’ being talked about here does not take into consideration the containers belonging to Barrick Gold Corporation that were held for days at the Mwanza Airport – Tanzania after being found to carry illegal weapons being transported to the embattled North Mara Mines. This dies a forced death as usual and I do not fear speculating that the same tactics that have stalled the discussions on the new mining legislation in the parliament were used.


In their statement they stated in ‘crystal’ letters that, “As a country founded on the strength of its natural resources, we are proud to see Canadian expertise, technology and investment dollars at work in communities around the world.
Should Canadian companies decide to invest abroad, the government encourages them to work in a positive manner that will help all stakeholders prosper from the projects.
In Africa, you can find many examples of Canada’s extractive sector playing a positive role: They are creating employment for local people, sharing and transferring Canadian expertise, respecting local law and regulations and helping communities develop natural resources in their own backyards.”
This leaves a lot of communication and understanding gap as to whether the blood of the innocent in rural communities in Tanzania (where Canadian Barrick Gold) has five mining sites with a trail of gross human rights violations, economic and environmental injustices, DRC, Kenya, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, Honduras and Guatemala is anything to stand tall on and declare pride?
This is a sorry state in the standings of two diplomats and evidences how arrogant and insensitive Canadian envoys to Kenya and Tanzania are.

Canadian Government & Transparency

It is an irony for the two diplomats to concur and put in black and white that,The Canadian government also strongly supports the International Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Our government will continue to support efforts of Canadian companies to make a positive difference in the communities in which they operate and encourage all governments to be transparent in their management of the extractive sector.”

A community in Bulyanhulu where a ‘planned’ massacre was reported in 1996 where 72 souls were reported lost. To me this was going to be a landmark to the Canadian facelift on how transparent they are. The relatives of the ‘alleged’ deaths are still haggling to get justice. The calls for an independent inquiry into the matter has fell on the deaf ears and I believe that the diplomats went through a series of trainings on how to give a totally deaf ears to these pending issues that are deemed as ‘tarnishing the reputation of Canada.’


Manipulations from Canada

Early February the world’s top personalities gathered in Cape Town in South Africa for the African Mining Indaba which was followed by the high profile gathering at the Southern Cape Hotel for the ministers of Mines, Chamber of mines from different African countries and of course a few representatives from the civil society camp.

One of the most interesting this is the fact that a number of representatives from the Mines ministries in over 35 African states unanimously state that, “human rights abuses reported in the extractive industry have not received a good handling while the participation of communities around the mines and equity in general were in books only.”

The African Mining Partnership (AMP) meeting was seasoned with a mixture of people, some who were pro-mining while the majority were cautiously tackling the issues that has taken the economies of their countries in the ‘drains’ with respect to the mining sectors in their respective countries. It also came out clearly that “Canada dominates extractive activities in Africa with a reputation which does not befits a country that boasts of constructive engagement in transparency and  accountability.”

When all these criticism was on the floor, a senior international Policy advisor, at Natural Resources Canada, Andre Bourassa ‘forced’ his way to address the gathering and complained bitterly of the “bad reports that has been posted on one of UN’s webpage concerning the trend of the mining/Extractive Industry.

“All reports that I have read on the UN’s webpage about mining in Africa is all negative. Mining in Africa is not all bad and these kinds of reports only make the UN to see a state of emergency and may stop its engagement in the mining sector even though in the recent past they have been gradually getting some interest.”

Bourassa went ahead to put forward a solemn plea to the minister to “produce positive reports on the progress made in the mining industry in Africa!”

This is something that threw a number of stakeholders off board and many asked, “if there is no good coming from the mining industry in Africa where are we going to get the good to write?”

This is the overbearing attitude which must stop. There has been far too much interference with all the interventions that African governments have introduced to make the most out of the natural wealth within individual countries’ borders.


New strategies announced

Messrs Ross Hynes and Roert Orr state in their statement that, “ Earlier this year, we (Canada) announced a new strategy that will help Canadian companies abroad go even further to meet and exceed their corporate social responsibility goals.”
If I am not mistaken this refers to the recent establishment of the office of the corporate social responsibility counsellor.  This is being headed by the former Munk Centre’s Director, Dr. Marketa Evans who is the new counsellor of the extractive sector’s CSR.
Canada has over the years realised a backlog of unresolved disputes from the host countries where foreign direct investment in the mining sector/extractive industry from Canada has had adverse effects in the social, economic and environmental areas.
“The mandate of the Counsellor will relate exclusively to the activities of Canadian extractive sector companies operating abroad. The Counsellor will:
  • Review the corporate social responsibility practices of Canadian extractive sector companies operating outside Canada; and
  • Advice stakeholders on the implementation of endorsed CSR performance guidelines.
The Counsellor will only undertake reviews with the consent of the involved parties. The five stages of the review process are: initial assessment; informal mediation; fact-finding; access to formal mediation; and, reporting.
Requests for review may originate from an individual, group or community that reasonably believes that it is being or may be adversely affected by the activities of a Canadian extractive sector company in its operations outside Canada. A request could also originate from a Canadian extractive sector company that believes it is the subject of unfounded allegations concerning its corporate conduct outside Canada in relation to the endorsed CSR performance guidelines.”
But with all that said on foreign affairs and international trade Canada website; a number of questions still linger in the minds of key players and those who follow closely on how far reaching and effective the office of the CSR counsellor will be? Does this office have the teeth to bite the Peter Munk’s of the Canadian Mining Empire? ...and how is this office prepared to deal with the unresolved disputes in Tanzania, Zambia, DRC, PNG, Guatemala, Honduras and other parts of the world where Canadian Extractive industry operates abroad?

Further readings

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND: What does the law of Retribution say?

NCHANGA OPEN PIT - KONKOLA: This is the world's second largest open pit mine in the World after Chile. Zambia and Zambians have nothing more to brag off on as far as the extraction of Copper is concerned. Churches have taken part in plunder of other countries' resources. What are they to give back? PHOTO/ER
In the real world of business, Churches are not left behind in the pursuit for more income. A number of Churches in the West have a lot of investments within the corporate world. This by and large is a good but the surprising factor is that the decisions to divest from investments that go against ethics take so long to be made. As we follow with Martin Chitengi, the biggest question is; how much is the church willing to return - according to the law of retribution to the communities who have long been plundered and abused?
The decision

THE Church of England has divested from mining company, Vedanta Resources, the majority shareholder of Konkola Copper Mines, after sustained pressure from campaigners, including many Christian groups.

The Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions Board announced that they sold their shares in the company on the advice of the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG).
Consequently, none of the three national investing bodies of the Church of England hold shares in Vedanta.

United Kingdom-based thinktank, Ekklesia, on its website, said it had highlighted, over three years, how Vedanta has been involved in some alleged unethical activities.

This included Vedanta’s bid for mining rights in the Indian state of Orissa in 2007 which faced mounting opposition from thousands of Dongaria Kandha tribal people.
The tribal people feared the plans would damage the fragile ecosystem of the Niyamgiri mountain forest, on which they depend for their livelihoods.

Manipulation on Policymaking processes
Ekklesia also alleges that Vedanta was involved in ‘short changing’ Zambia with royalty fees of just 0.6 per cent instead of the 5 to 10 per cent industry average in developing countries before the development agreements were abolished.

When contacted for comment KCM spokesperson Rahul Kharkar, who was sent the Ekklesia statement on Tuesday said he needed time to consult the chief executive and promised to call later. 
Meanwhile Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal denied allegations of maltreatment of locals according to online Economic Times of India.

 Mr Agarwal in a detailed e-mail response said that the mining project at Niyamgiri has been formally authorised by the Supreme Court, following a lengthy and extensively documented approval and procedure.
And Survival International pointed out that the Church is not the first to disinvest from Vedanta on ethical grounds.

In 2007, Norway sold its US$13m stake, alleging ‘there is little reason to believe the company’s unacceptable practice will change in the future."
Martin Currie Investments sold its its £2.3 million stake last year, and BP’s pension fund reduced its holdings in Vedanta due to alleged ‘concerns about the way the company operates.’

Investor values Versus Ethics
The EIAG advised divestment saying its engagement with Vedanta produced no substantive results and EIAG believed it would be inconsistent with the Church ethical investment policy to remain invested given the EIAG’s concerns about the firm’s approach to relations with the communities where it operates.

The EIAG chairman, John Reynolds says, “I am a passionate advocate for engagement with companies when we have ethical concerns. We have an excellent track record of getting our concerns heard and acted upon by firms in which the Church investing bodies hold shares.

“We are grateful to Vedanta’s senior management for making themselves available to meet us on a number of occasions. However, after six months of engagement, we are not satisfied that Vedanta has shown, or is likely in future to show, the level of respect for human rights and local communities.”

The EIAG understands that the Indian government is still considering whether to give final approval for the mine project.
Mr Reynolds stressed that: “We respect the Indian democratic system. Our concern is that a company registered and listed in the UK should conform to the established environmental, social and governance norms expected in the London market – or at least reassure its shareholders that it is committed to the journey.”

The EIAG said it will maintain contact with Vedanta. John Reynolds said: “We will be pleased to review our recommendation to the Church investing bodies if the company addresses the concerns we have raised.”

A Welcome Decision
The director of Survival International, Stephen Corry said: "The Church’s unprecedented and very welcome decision sends a strong signal to companies that trample on tribal peoples’ rights:
Vedanta was just one of a number of investments in mining companies which the Church of England still holds.

Campaigners point out that mining is one of the most polluting industries in the world. It has a disproportionately negative impact on marine-dependent and land-based communities, especially indigenous peoples

The Church of England and the Methodist Church hold shares in Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, despite Catholic aid agency CAFOD, War on Want, Anglican bishops and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, previously condemning the companies for their actions.

The combined Church of England shareholding in these three companies was valued at £62 million in the last annual report of the Church Commissioners.
BHP Billiton in particular has faced allegations of human rights abuses and widespread environmental destruction.

Campaigners, The London Mining Network recently published an ‘alternative report’ into its activities outlining negative impact of many of the company’s operations – in Australia, West Papua, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Colombia and Chile.

Jonathan Bartley co-director of Ekklesia which last year produced a report examining the ethics of the Church's investments said: "questions must now be asked about the other mining companies in which the Church also has substantial shareholdings.