Poorly researched, one-sided reports by activists are undermining the relationships between mining companies and their host communities in Zambia says First Quantum Minerals or FQM.
A recent flurry of pamphlets by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) appears to be calculated to destabilise the trust built up with local people, says the company, which operates the Kansanshi mine in Solwezi and Sentinel mine at Kalumbila.
“It is entirely right and proper that mines are open to scrutiny and held accountable for their actions, and indeed First Quantum goes to great lengths to ensure it is transparent in its corporate operations and sustainability programmes,” said FQM country manager General Kingsley Chinkuli.
“What is more concerning are NGOs – often backed by foreign donors and with little understanding of the issues – that make spurious claims without robust evidence-based research or sound methodologies.”
Such reports are often based on a few days on the ground conducting qualitative “interviews” with an unrepresentative and statistically invalid sample of people. It is often the handful of people with an “axe to grind” that are most vocal and more likely to be quoted by the researchers, he said.
“These poorly researched reports fuel unrest, distort the views of the majority of local people, and give a disproportionate profile to a small number of people. They risk destabilising the relationships we have built up with communities around our mines over a long period of time,” added Chinkuli, who called for such studies to be executed in a more academically rigorous manner and overseen by a peer-review system that enhances understanding of the subject.
Too often such reports are designed to attract sensationalist headlines and secure additional funding rounds from donors, he added.
In a number of instances, the company has not been afforded a right to reply to claims; offers of site visits ad meetings have been declined, been requested with too little notice, or been conducted without full disclosure of the accusations being levelled against the company, he explained.
One recent example involved a foreign-funded report containing a litany of factual errors and unsubstantiated claims about the Kansanshi mine, with the sweeping statement: “There is clear resistance from the company to invest in sustainable CSR”.
In fact, in addition to the US$3.3 billion paid by the mine in taxes, employment of 5 140 direct staff and a similar number of indirect workers, Kansanshi Mining Plc has spent S$30 million on direct community support through the Kansanshi Foundation since 2005. $4.79 million was spent in 2018 alone.
Highlights in 2018 include:
- $320 000 spent on construction of two five-classroom blocks (10 classrooms) at Mushitala and Mbonge in 2018.
- 260 teachers trained in improved teaching methods.
- Education support extends from early childhood education programmes, through all levels of schooling, to the Kwambula Training at the Solwezi Trades Training Institute (SOTTI).
- $113 000 spent in 2018 on school text books and more than $9 000 on school desks, with US$39 000 spent on scholarships.
- $45 000 a month spent on providing nutritious meal supplements every school day for 6 000 children in 22 of the 26 primary schools it supports.
- HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention and treatment programmes.
- Farming and livelihoods programmes
- Training 30 000 farmers in conservation farming.
- Over 1 200 hectares of maize has been planted under the programme this season.
- Over 5 000 farmers supplied with subsidised farming inputs.
- Community banking.
- Community road safety campaign underway.
- Anti-gender-based violence and girl empowerment programmes.
- Local employment generation
- Local procurement policy
- 27 businesses registered for training
- 12 community boreholes complete and handed over to government. Drilling of the next 12 is almost complete.
- Community and main road construction.
- Construction of Kabitaka town.
- Environmental management
- Zero-discharge water system.
- 18 303 people trained in green charcoal making.
- Wildlife conservation.