THAT over K165 million is suspected to have been lost to illegal mining in precious metals and stones last year makes sad reading.
It is a stark reminder that the authorities have failed to safeguard the country’s precious resources and allowed crooks to take centre-stage.
This is daylight robbery that should not have been allowed had measures been taken to safeguard the country’s mineral resources.
According to the 2020 Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) trends report, of the K3.1 billion worth of suspicious transactions, K165 million was lost to illegal mining in precious metals and stones.
We are not surprised at all for we have in the past appealed to the authorities to ensure that the government steps up security in regions where precious minerals have been discovered.
We are all aware how traditional leaders in the Eastern Province repeatedly complained about the influx of foreigners from neighbouring countries who had invaded their chiefdoms to mine for gold.
Some foreigners even had the audacity to engage the local villagers to do the work for them.
In the North-Western Province, Mwinilunga’s Kasenseli area in particular, was invaded by foreigners looking for gold and other precious stones.
Not even the introduction of the Zambia Police to guard the gold fields put them off from abandoning their illegal activities.
Zambia has a poor history of not protecting her precious mineral resources and it should not surprise anyone that so much has been lost through illegal transactions.
And the unfortunate part has been that it has been the foreigners who have struck it rich leaving the owners wallowing in poverty.
Perhaps, the emerald-rich Copperbelt rural comprising Lufwanyama best illustrates how foreigners came and made a fortune as the locals looked watched.
The emeralds mined on the Copperbelt are said to be among the best in the world but the average villager in Lufwanyana has not benefitted much.
Senior citizens on the Copperbelt will recall how people from as far as West Africa, particularly Senegalese invaded the region to mine emeralds in the 70s.
By the time the government took a keen interest in mining the emeralds, damage had already been done.
In Zimba, Southern Province, small-scale miners have through the years been mining tin and the proceeds they make do not go to the national treasury. It is siphoned out of the country.
The FIC report should therefore not just be dismissed as one of those reports churned out yearly but should spur the nation to action and take stock of its mineral wealth.
Although a start has been made for example in Feira with the formation of gold mining cooperatives to work with the ZCCM-IH, there are still loopholes as highlighted by the FIC report.
The country’s economic woes are not insurmountable when one considers the rich resources begging to be exploited.
That K165 million lost revenue through illegal mining could make a difference and come next year, the story must change. No more must such colossal sums of money evade Treasury.