Editorial

Illegal gold mining

IT is quite mind boggling that at a time when the nation should be told how proper mining is being carried out in the newly discovered gold mining areas, we still read of illegal miners being arrested.
Over the past year, we have read of foreigners from Angola but even as far away as Tanzania invading gold fields in Mwinilunga, even supplanting locals in digging up the gold.
A question we asked as a newspaper since February is how is it that a few months after the reported discovery of gold findings in some parts of the country, foreigners are still the ones dominating the exploitation of the precious mineral – though illegally.
We would have thought that Government by now would have ensured that illegal immigrants reported to have invaded these gold fields are flushed out and the sites secured.
From what we know, Government even sent in security personnel to ensure that the gold fields were properly secured so that proper mining under ZCCM-IH could start through artisan miners.
Yet, while ZCCM-IH is procrastinating or doing some groundwork, there are reports of several illegal miners being arrested for stealing what belongs to Zambians.
North-Western Province Minister Nathaniel Mubukwanu yesterday revealed that several illegal miners who invaded Kasenseli gold sites in Mwinilunga have been apprehended,
According to Mr Mubukwanu, the illegal miners were arrested after security wings conducted patrols at the gold sites in Mwinilungalast week.
By now, we would have thought that the area would have been cleaned of illegal miners given that the government has deployed security wings. What could be the problem?
Do the security wings mean to tell the nation that they have been outwitted by the illegal miners?
It appears that the illegal miners recognise the value of the gold more than ZCCM-IH hence their preparedness to risk their lives to get at the gold.
But Government for its part has demonstrated that it wants the gold to be properly mined, hence the introduction of security personnel in the area.
Moreover, this was even more exemplified by President Edgar Lungu himself last week when he removed Mr Hudson Namachila as North-Western Province Commissioner of Police for having failed to secure the gold fields.
As Mr Mubukwanu noted, gold had been identified as a strategic reserve and, therefore, there was need to ensure it was mined in a well-structured manner.
“From the time gold was discovered a number of illegal activities have been taking place and to make it worse new gold sites have been discovered in the area and now we have seen an influx of people now flooding the areas.
“We don’t know yet whether they are foreign nationals or they our local people but it is very sad the way the areas are being invaded by an influx of people to illegally exploit the resource.
Our stand is we have always said is that Government must as a first step ensure that it forms a taskforce that will go around the country organising the youth and offer them basic training in simple mining.
The Zambia National Service we have suggested is one such wing the government can use because it is represented throughout the country and has been involved in skills training for young people.
By encouraging the formation of cooperatives, Government would ensure there is organised mining and provide employment for the youth.
Government must help the youth source gold panning equipment instead of leaving them with simple hoes and pick-axes?
Early this year, Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Richard Musukwa said the government would provide gold panning equipment to the gold panning communities and cooperatives.
In addition, Mineral Development Permanent Secretary Barnaby Mulenga reported that Cabinet had approved plans to relax requirements in the mining sector to allow locals to fully participate in the mining of gold as a first step first.
Surely, by now we should not be chasing after illegal miners but seeing organised mining activities taking place.

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