CSOs urge regular auditing of mines

GOVERNMENT must undertake regular audits of mining companies' activities so that maximum revenue starts benefitting ordinary Zambians, say civil society organisations. 
The Civil Society organisations have also challenged government to urgently implement the mining revenue sharing mechanism that will result in 40 per cent going towards local communities and councils where the mines are located. 
According to resolutions made by Zambian civil society organisations working in the extractive industries that met under the auspices of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW), it was noted that Zambia was not maximising the benefits from its natural resources. 
 "These resources should benefit the nation as a whole and not just foreign companies and local political and economic elites and the recent indaba offered an opportunity for all stakeholders to debate current practices and policies and to highlight the serious challenges that the Zambian mining industry currently faces and how the lives of Zambian citizens, especially in communities near the mines, are being adversely impacted," they stated. 
"To help tackle rampant tax evasion and avoidance, government must undertake regular audits of mining companies and government should also renegotiate its share agreement with mining companies through the ZCCM-IH to increase government's currently insufficient shareholding in mining companies." 
It advised government to review and adjust the tax regime so that it becomes fairer and just for all stakeholders. 
"Since the current tax regime is complicated, difficult to apply and does not favour the Zambian people and because a fairer tax mechanism will reduce the demand for corporate social responsibility projects and government should also design an integrated development mining policy that will ensure that part of revenues collected from mining operations remain in local communities," the CSOs stated. 
"Government should also introduce a self adjusting tax regime that will ensure predictability in the sector and will guarantee equitable revenue sharing regardless of the price of commodities on international markets." 
The civil society further challenged government and mining companies to make their development agreements public. 
"Since these agreements are currently secret, making it difficult for civil society and affected communities to monitor what the government and companies are doing and they must publicly disclose the contractual obligations between them," stated the CSOs. 
"And communities living near mines must be actively consulted throughout the process from negotiations to operations to eventual mine closures since these communities are often very poor and marginalised and bear the brunt of the mining activities in terms of environmental degradation, air and water pollution, and unfair resettlement."