CSOs' 'blame game' on FQM issue is premature

CSOs' 'blame game' on FQM issue is premature

LANDS, natural resources and environmental protection minister Wylbur Simuusa says he is disappointed with civil society organisations suggesting that government has not shown leadership over the Chisora dam construction. Over 18 CSOs have petitioned the government over its decision to allow First Quantum Minerals (FQM) to continue constructing the Chisola dam, which was stopped through an environmental protection order. 

Speaking to journalists in Chingola, Simuusa said it was premature for CSOs to play a 'blame game' over the issue when the government, through its law enforcing wings had put up stringent measures to ensure that the mining company complies with the laws over the project.  Simuusa said the government would always make decisions in the best interest of Zambians and the environment.  "My ministry, in consultation with other government line ministries, had given First Quantum Minerals three options, the first option was for FQM to go ahead but be ready to bear the cost and account for the damage if the project collapses or has any negative impact, the second option was for FQM to wait for a Strategic Environmental Plan and thirdly to find the alternative site on which to construct the dam," Simuusa explained. 

He said FQM chose the first option, which the government had allowed in the interest of promoting investment and job creation for the people.  Simuusa explained that after FQM chose the first option, the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) have come in to analyse the condition, adding that if anything went wrong with that dam, FQM would not go unpunished. 

"In that case, ZEMA will first demolish the dam and demand for compensation. Mind you, if we had stopped this project, the very CSO could have been the first to complain," he said. 
Simuusa further said the vast land allocated to the project in chief Museli in North Western Province had been tabled and the resettlement plan had been brought in to find the best way to address the problem. 

ZEMA had established that FQM breached environmental requirements relating to the construction of its Chisola dam project in chief Museli's area in North Western Province, prompting the protection order. But the 18 CSOs, among them AcitionAid, Canadian Mining Watch, Centre for Trade Policy and Development, Caritas Zambia, the Southern Africa Resource Watch questioned government's decision to lift the protection order and allowed the company to continue with the construction of the dam. 

The CSOs have indicated that should FQM go for the option of constructing the dam before the Strategic Environmental Assessment, they would seek legal redress in the courts of law in accordance with the environmental management Act No. 12 of 2011 to stop the action. 

In a statement released on Friday, the CSOs through SARW campaign officer in Zambia Edward Lange questioned the government's stance over the Chisola dam controversy, saying they did not understand why the state was seemingly being held at ransom by mining companies.