By ANDREW MUKOMA
An influx of foreign nations and politically connected businessmen invading the coal mining sector in the Gwembe Valley has caused concern among locals, with a nong government organization asking government to intervene so that locals are not displaced.
Members of Ngwembe Valley Must Develop advocates in Southern Province have raised concerns over an influx of foreigners and politically connected businessmen invading the coal mining sector in the valley region at small scale level. The members have noted that there has been an increase in the number of illegal coal and other mineral mining activities in Gwembe, Sinazongwe and on the valley part of Kalomo districts in the province.
This came to light during a group engagement with Sinazongwe Town Council Chairperson Cliff Siachibweka to discuss the future of districts in valley region in the UPND administration.
The members also wanted to know how council documents are given to such investors before they engage in mining activities.
They stated that in most cases such mining activities under prospecting licences have led to the locals being displaced or relocated to other areas without any compensation involved.
The Gwembe Valley Must Develop advocates wanted to know at what point the local authority moves in to address the situation to avoid locals being displaced by those conducting mining activities in their areas.
However, Sinazongwe Town Council Chairperson Cliff Siachibweka clarified that in such instances, the local authority has very little to say or do because policies and laws guiding such activities are done at higher levels.
Mr Siachibweka explained that the council only comes in middle way and that that is where the problem comes in.
“The council comes middle way and that is where the problem is and I think that that is where we need to change our laws at national level beginning from Parliament. Usually, these investors go to the mining archive to see where there are mineral deposits, then they go direct to the Ministry of Mines and from there they acquire a prospecting licence…..they just come to the district with a prospecting licence and you can’t reverse it because you have no powers as a council,” he said.
He said that once such investors are in the district, they begin to looking for what they want and once it is discovered that there is coal deposits, then they engage the community in that area without the local authority’s involvement.
“The community is engaged through ZEMA and a consultant to do a feasibility study and produce an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and when that report is out, ZEMA comes back to the community to ask them if the activity can go ahead,” he explained.
Mr Siachibweka explained to the members that the only time the local authority is involved is when the investor wants a title deed for the land.
He is hopeful that with the new administration in power, the issue will be considered especially that decentralisation is now in place with councils being given more powers.