By Oliver Samboko
Chief Simaamba of the ‘BAGANDE’ people of Siavonga district has issued an ultimatum to the Canadian company operating the Muntanga Uranium Mine to commence the actual mining in the area saying the exploration of the mineral has taken too long.
Speaking at the Siavonga district Uranium forum organised by the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) held at Hilltop Lodge, the traditional leader wondered why it had taken so long to commence mining activities in the area when Namibia which started explorations at the same time with Zambia, is actively mining the commodity.
‘’We are aware that a lot of explorations were done and a lot minerals taken away on the pretext that they were going to do analysis somewhere but can’t that analysis be done here or in South Africa? I believe the company made a lot of profit from the uranium they got and that is the reason they are doing all this corporate social responsibility projects in the area despite claiming that they are not mining,” said the traditional leader.
He said if the mining company was not interested in carrying out Uranium mining activities in the area, it should leave so that another company can be engaged.
The traditional leader said it was possible that the company operating the Mutanga mine is one but has been changing names to avoid responsibilities to the community.
‘’The company has been changing names but we are aware it’s the same company. If prices were low, Namibia would have shut their operations a long time ago.
He said the reason given by the company that it can not start mining because of the low prices for uranium on the world market following the Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, is a lame excuse because if it was so, Namibia would have shut its mines.
‘’Why is that the low prices of Uranium is only affecting Zambia and not Namibia? I wonder why it has taken more 12 years to explore uranium here when in other countries such as Namibia they are doing the actual mining,” said the chief adding that the Namibian company has since opened another mine in Malawi.
He said the people in the area are eagerly looking forward to be employed once operations at the mine commence and therefore urged the company to get to work.
‘’We want the mining to start so that our people can benefit from employment at the mine.
Chief Simaamba further called on the mine company to put necessary measures for relocation before undertaking full mining activities in the area in order to safeguard the lives of the community around the mining area.
Meanwhile, District Uranium Forum has recommended that before any mining of uranium is allowed to commence, villagers within the 30 km radius must be relocated to other areas and that there is need for government to enact a law and policy on the mining of uranium in the country among other recommendations.
The one day forum was attended by the District Administration, the local authority, traditional leadership, church representatives, community members and other stakeholders.