KABANDA CHULU, Lusaka
OVER US$ 1 million is lost annually at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Chingola through illegal mining activities.
KCM head of security Max Maona said illegal mining is not unique to Zambia but is an occurrence in several mining countries.
“Illegal mining is pure theft of copper ore, and these incidents of theft have been with us for years but we were managing. Now the dynamics have changed, the illegal miners have increased in numbers, and have become violent and are using weapons such as machetes, axes, catapults, among other weapons.
“Actually, these activities were restricted to open pits that weren’t active but the thieves have also started invading the active pits and the plant area to steal whatever they can lay their hands on,” he said in an interview last week.
Mr Maona said the mining area is too vast covering 12,000 hectares of land.
“Initially, we considered fencing the massive land where the pits are located but it is too vast, about 42 kilometers and could have costed US$ 13 million, so a cost-benefit analysis was conducted in relation to the lifespan of some of the pits.
“The proposal was found to be unsustainable, and we have just continued to patrol the pits despite being a large area. Over US$ 1 million worth of materials is lost annually, these include the increase in security expenditure and lost operations whenever production is disrupted the illegal miners,” he said.
Illegal mining activities have scaled down, and the security situation has stabilised after KCM with support from Government, stationed sizeable manpower from Zambia Police within the open pit areas.
And Government through Immigration Department invoked work permits and deported some people, mainly the Chinese, who allegedly provided market to the illegal miner.