Monday, March 10, 2014

500 NFCA miners lose employment

By Misheck Wangwe in Chambishi
Thu 05 Dec. 2013, 14:00 CAT

OVER 500 miners that were constructing NFCA's South East Ore Body in Chambishi have been laid off following the decision by ZEMA to halt the operations.

And the unionised workers yesterday staged a protest in Chambishi demanding that ZEMA rescinds its decision to suspend the construction of the SEOB.

But the Southern Africa Resource Watch says ZEMA must be commended for acting decisively over the SEOB as it was being constructed without considering the interests of the poor community and other stakeholders.

The Zambia Environmental Management Agency ordered the Chinese-owned Nonferrous Cooperation Africa Mining of Chambishi to halt its operations at its South East Ore Body project for failing to comply with the laid down conditions of the investment.

But NFCA chief executive officer Wan Chunlai described ZEMA's decision as shocking and rather draconian.

In an interview yesterday, NFCA corporate affairs manager Nelson Jilowa said the workers had been laid off because ZEMA had suspended the operations at SEOB.

Jilowa said as a law abiding mining company, NFCA management had suspended all operations at the SEOB project and the workers had been sent home.

"As NFCA, we were taking the SEOB project and the employees as one. We cannot make any development without the employees and it's not our intentions to send them home, it is ZEMA's decision. When a decision is made to lift the suspension, the employees will be called and remember, it's not only these 500 miners, there are about 5,000 prospective employees whom we envisage to employ at the completion of this project and they have also been seriously affected," Jilowa said.

He said the laid off miners would be paid their accrued dues.
Jilowa said NFCA had no option but to comply with ZEMA's directives.

"In the absence of the audit report, which to us is the basis of this decision by ZEMA, one would be left with no option but to speculate that it could be the misunderstandings that have been there between us from NFCA and Hybrid Poultry Farm that has contested this project," Jilowa said.

He said the mining company was on the ground and had created a cordial relationship with the municipality, the community in Twashuka and Mukulumpe areas that would be affected by the SEOB project.

"We have put up a package for the affected communities and people are very happy. We updated ZEMA about this," Jilowa said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of NFCA workers from the suspended SEOB protested in Chambishi demanding that ZEMA immediately lifts the suspension because their families would suffer.

The workers that attempted to match to Hybrid Poultry Farm were intercepted by the police and senior officials from the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers.

NUMAW president James Chansa appealed to the workers to be calm as the union would sit with all stakeholders involved to resolve the matter.
The workers later dispersed.

But the Southern Africa Resource Watch campaign officer for Zambia Edward Lange said the suspension of the SEOB projects was long overdue because NFCA was doing it without due regard for the community.

"If you go to the municipality, they don't even have where they are going to take those people. If investors are going to be taking Zambia like an animal farm where they can do anything that they want without observing the laws of the land, then we are not going anywhere. ZEMA must be allowed to execute its mandates diligently and professionally without any interference," said Lange.

NFCA's SEOB project worth US$832 million (about K5 billion) was approved by ZEMA on September 5, 2012.

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