Gold! It is the world’s most well-known precious metal and also one of the most expensive in the world. To extract gold, one has to dig deep into the Earth’s crust, in many cases using all sorts of heavy-duty extractive industry machinery. But here in Zambia, this world’s ‘most expensive’ metal has been discovered right within the surface – in the soil. You only need a simple gardening hoe to dig out gold.
In Petauke’s Sasali and Sandwe areas; in Vubwi, south of Chipata City; in Rufunsa and Luangwa; in Mwinilunga and not to mention the Copperbelt Province itself, gold is plenty! Farmers are literally cultivating their crops in gold fields. If we are to be too explicit, we could say that in Mwinilunga and Petauke right now, gold is like a by-product of farming activities. In short, we have had plenty of copper in Zambia, but now we have plenty more of gold.
Elsewhere, this news would translate into an instant economic boom. Government would be lining up local mining investors for consideration with mining licences; banks would be preparing credit facilities for these local investors to start operations and employ other citizens. But nope! None of that is happening in Zambia. Instead, it is the same foreign investors who are getting mining licenses from government. In fact, they don’t even have immediate plans to start mining operations; they are just getting the licences and keeping them idle for their future generations to use. This situation has to be corrected.
The gold rush in Mwinilunga should not invite government authorities to deploy trigger-happy military personnel to shoot the poor local citizens who are jostling for their God-given natural resources; it should, instead, motivate government to consider empowering these people so that they can own the gold mines. The Minister of Mines should take interest to know who owns gold mines here in Zambia, and once he confirms that foreigners have control, a deliberate policy must be put in place where no mining license will be issued to a company that doesn’t have a Zambian shareholder. This is the only way we are going to create a nation of wealthy citizens; citizens who will make genuine money and invest within Zambia without having to run away from their houses when the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) come knocking.
Let’s face it: Zambians have no control over copper. It’s gone! Foreign investors are in charge of our most abundant mineral reserves. They own the copper mines; they own the processing and they also own the markets, locally and abroad. There is nothing for Zambians where copper in concerned. Those citizens, otherwise called Jerabos, who have the energy and interest in mining, are confined to the Black Mountain where they are treated as scavengers in their own country! In fact, these Zambians risk their lives so much to the point of death. In June, 2018, at least 10 Jerabos died at the infamous Black Mountain while scavenging for mineral resources in their own country.
We must not allow this to continue. We are saying to the Minister of Mines and his President, who is also a Jerabo from Kitwe, that there is need to give gold mining licenses to Zambians. Yes, foreigners have the money, but we have the minerals. The fact that they can’t keep their money, while we keep our gold, means that they need us more than we do, so we should be able to dictate terms. The citizens in this case must have an upper hand to determine the level of foreign involvement in mining. It hurts to see reports, such as the one posted on YouTube “Alecto Minerals going for gold in Zambia” https://www.youtube.com/watch? where foreign investors are selling gold mines to each other in our country, while Zambians wait to be employed or scavenge on the slag dumps!
We have taken note of the promise by the Minister of Mines and Minerals Development, Honourable Richard Musukwa, that government will soon start revoking mining licenses for investors who have failed to develop mining operations within the legally-stipulated timeframe. We also note that this statement comes following a directive from President Edgar Lungu, who recently travelled to North-Western Province and found local people up in arms with license holders in the gold deposit zones in Mwinilunga.
“Government wants the people of Mwinilunga District to benefit from available natural resources in that area and the recent gold discoveries. In order for this to be done, local people in Mwinilunga should form cooperatives, which will enable them to mine legally under an approved mine plan anchored on safety,” promises Minister Musukwa.
We hope the Minister means his words. This should not be mere rhetoric. We want gold mines in this country to belong to Zambians who have interest in mining. If they don’t have money, empower them. Mobilize commercial banks to provide credit facilities for mining investments. We should not lose out the way we have lost out on copper.
We can’t continue to have citizens suffering in a country, which God has blessed with so many natural resources just because government authorities are illicitly motivated to grant mining licenses to foreigners at the expense of its own poor people. Ba Musukwa, tupeleni imigodi ya gold mwaumfwa!