FIRST Quantum Minerals ( FQM) has pledged to cooperate with the Zambian government following the suspension of its surface rights at the Kalumbila mining project.
Recently, lands minister Wilbur Simuusa announced the cancellation of FQM’s surface rights which intended to build an ultra- modern housing complex for workers. The government said it suspected ‘ a lot of illegality’ at the project site located off the Solwezi- Mwinilunga area in Senior Chief Musele’s area.
Simuusa further directed FQM to make new submissions so that the matter could start afresh.
When asked about the progress that had been made to address the concerns raised by government that led to the cancellation of the surface rights, FQM spokesperson John Gladston, in a statement, said the company was uncompromising when it came to complying with the governing laws of host nations.
“That is a deep- seated practice as evidenced by the company’s embrace of the Equator Principles that obligate ethical, lawful and sustainable practices, a key imperative for leading international financial institutions, stated Gladston. “Therefore, FQM will respond to any matters raised by the government in the context of ensuring consistency and strong adherence to the legislative and regulatory requirements in Zambia.”
When announcing the suspension of the surface rights, Simuusa, who was flanked by chiefs and traditional affairs minister Professor Nkandu Luo and commissioner of lands Barnaby Mulenga, said government would closely monitor the developments at Kalumibila.
“We are not saying the housing project is not going ahead but we are not happy with the current state of affairs concerning the project and the community” said Simuusa. “What this means is that fresh submissions should be prepared because we are re- staring the process and new submissions should be prepared within 45 days since government doesn’t want to delay projects.”
Prof Luo said government suspended the surface rights because the previous government left everything to chance.
“It is surprising that FQM acquired land the size of Rwanda and I hope this will serve as a warning to other investors,” she said.
And Mulenga said it was wrong for Senior Chief Musele and the council to give such a size of land to FQM when the chief could only give land up to 250 hectares.
Initially, FQM wanted 950 square kilometres of land but only 518 square kilometres was agreed upon between the mining company, Senior Chief Musele and Solwezi Council.
FQM also applied for 10,000 hectares for the development of a modern township where 2,000 houses were supposed to be built.