A united team of police officers from the Copperbelt province’s ten districts has launched an operation to remove hundreds of illegal miners who had infiltrated the CNMC Luanshya Copper Mines.
The region invaded by illegal miners was the Roan extension west open pit mine in the Mpatamato area of the Luanshya district.
Both Patrick Maipambe, District Commissioner of Luanshya, and Sydney Chileya, Public Relations Manager of Luanshya Copper Mines (CLM), confirmed the development to ZANIS today.
Hundreds of illegal miners, including children under the age of 12, from Luanshya and neighbouring towns had invaded CNMC Luanshya copper mines Roan Extension west and Baluba East open pit mines after a named politician illegally granted the mines to the cadres as a form of youth empowerment prior to the August 12, general elections.
The operation, which involved over 350 police officers, begun on Saturday around midnight into Sunday morning in which police fought running battles with illegal miners.
The illegal miners were pelted stones at the police and burnt tires in a bid to resist vacating the mine premises.
Mr. Chileya explained that, “as a company we started seeking police intervention into this matter in 2018 when the illegality begun but we could not get positive response from the police,” he said.
He added that a few weeks prior to elections, the situation worsened as illegal miners from other towns flocked to the Luanshya Copper Mines to conduct illegal activities.
He said on several occasions, the affected mine reported the matter to the local police and also to provincial heads but there was no positive response.
Mr. Chileya said CLM only managed to arrest the situation through the use of the company lawyers William Nyirenda and Company, and the engagement of ZCCM HI and Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) and the Mining Safety Department, who are stakeholders in the company.
“The invasion started three years ago but was escalated two months ago and as a company we have lost a lot of mining assets translating into huge sums of money, and this has affected our production as you are aware we are an economic asset of the district,” he said.
He further said, “the illegality not only did it affect our operations but was also unsafe and unfortunately had claimed seven (7) lives in the space of two months in which the illegal activity had escalated”.
Mr. Chileya said despite the pockets of violence that characterised the operation, the situation has been mitigated.
And Luanshya District Commissioner Patrick Miapambe commended the move adding that the mining activity was an illegality that could not be tolerated.
Mr. Maipambe said police had in the past engaged the illegal miners asking them to stop the mining activities.
He disclosed that the miners were aware that the activity was illegal saying halting it was long overdue.
“As government, we cannot continue to allow an illegality to prevail. This morning police swung into action and removed the illegal miners by engaging them and making them understand the need to desist from conducting mining activities, which is an invasion on private property.” Mr. Maipambe said.
He said he had asked the police not to use force on the people but speak to them and make them understand the reason why they should move away.
“I am glad that the situation has been settled and everything is back to normal and the operation has been incident free, the miners have also understood that that area belongs CLM,” he said.
CLM is currently a large contributor to the economic activity of the district with over 2,000 employees including contractors.