A US$2 million (K12 million) program of community work by Lufwanyama-based emerald producer Kagem Mining has been launched in the district.
Acting President Guy Scott officially launched the program yesterday with a ground-breaking ceremony for a new secondary school at Chapula and upgrade of Nkana Health Centre in the area.
Dr. Scott commended the company’s commitment to community projects and the even greater amount that it pays to government by way of taxes, dividends and royalties each year.
“This is serious investment, and this is serious development,” he told guests.
Kagem is a model collaboration that is 75 per cent owned by London-listed Gemfields plc, in partnership with the Zambian Government, which owns the other 25 per cent.
Kagem board chairperson William Nyirenda said: “Ever since Gemfields partnered with the Zambian government in 2008 the company has been transformed from the previous loss-making company to the now profit-making one due to the massive investments and prudent management of the company.
“During the past few years, the turnaround strategies undertaken by Gemfields has enabled Kagem for the first time to pay dividends to its shareholders, including GRZ.”
Construction of the secondary school will include 10 classrooms, two science laboratories, two computer rooms, a library, needlework and home craft rooms, an administrative block, ablution blocks, and a borehole.
Kagem’s support for education has numerous benefits: it develops literacy levels, enhances productivity and good health, and improves the contribution of young people to society and their families.
Kagem aims to uplift the learning environment for both pupils and teaching staff, thus also providing a pool of educated workers for future employment at the mine.
The company will also fund construction of a four-ward mini-hospital at Nkana Clinic, along with two nurses’ accommodation blocks and a borehole. Work on the school and clinic will also include electrification and plumbing.
“Last year Kagem announced plans for a significant investment to improve the livelihoods of the people of Lufwanyama. We are now putting that vision into action in partnership with all our stakeholders.
“Education and health are key components of that vision, along with the conservation of our shared environment,” said Kagem and Gemfields Chief Executive Officer Ian Harebottle.
The extension of the clinic will give people improved access to more advanced healthcare facilities at a local level, lessening the need to travel farther afield for more complicated medical attention. It will provide dedicated male, female and children’s wards, as well as a maternity unit, and will allow for 24-hour patient care.
The company’s motivation is to benefit the people of Lufwanyama, and by extension improve the well-being of its workers, their families and the community in which the Kagem emerald mine is located.
The work is part of Kagem’s and Gemfields’ wider drive to pioneer the concept of responsible gemstone mining. In addition to the school and the clinic, the companies are also stepping up their tree planting initiatives and investing heavily in the back-filling of mine excavation works to protect the environment.
Kagem’s approach to its community development projects aims to ensure maximum impact through a long-term sustainable strategy which listens to the needs of local people and works hand-in-hand with community leaders, central and local government, non-governmental organisations and local residents.
The focus is on alleviating poverty and is aligned with government policies, objectives and targets as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Vision 2030.
To date Kagem has spent more than K3 million on CSR projects, including provision of a ZESCO powerline, new buildings at Chapula Basic School, teachers’ accommodation at Kapila Community School, improvements to Chief Nkana and Chief Lumpuma’s Palaces, the Nkana clinic, and the ‘Blessings’ and ‘Green Farm’ projects. The company has also contributed towards road grading and maintenance.
On the environmental side, Kagem has initiated a tree-planting project under which a tree nursery has been established, tending to some 100,000 tree saplings. Kagem is working closely with the Forestry Department under the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection on this.
Maintaining the environment is an ongoing process for Kagem and its mining operations adopt an in-pit dumping method whereby excavated rock and soil are used to back-fill previously mined sites, ensuring the mine footprint and environmental impact are minimised.
The responsible approach is all part of Kagem’s strategy to be at the forefront of developing the international market for Zambian emeralds by investing in exploration, mining, sales and marketing to develop a competitive, reliable and trusted source of ethically produced gemstones that buyers can rely on.
Mr Harebottle said: “Kagem is the flag-bearer for the Zambian gemstone sector, and one of the finest examples of what can be achieved in partnerships between governments and foreign investors in the mining sphere. Our holistic approach is a vital part of that, as we work to ensure maximum benefit for all stakeholders in terms of financial, economic, social and environmental returns.”