By Gershom Ndhlovu
Recently I read a story entitled “Uranium ‘hunters’ masquerading as copper miners” in one of the daily papers. The story sent my mind racing back into time to the existence of the Precious Metals Plant (PMP) which was situated at the Ndola Copper Refinery which was later sold to the Binani Group of companies.
The PMP, situated on the Ndola-Kabwe road, fell into such a state of disrepair such that some bold
residents started vandalising it, first by removing all the remnants of copper in whatever form and then roofing sheets and anything movable. Ndola
This is the same fate that befell the defunct Furncoz plant in
’s industrial area which was vandalised brick by brick, metal by piece of metal. Ndola
I had the privilege of visiting the PMP on two occasions, first on a conducted tour of ZCCM facilities which took me underground at Baluba Mine and Konkola B shaft, with the then ZCCM spokesman, the late Francis Musonda, when I was Zambia Daily Mail Ndola Chief Reporter.
The second visit was when former Vice-President Christon Tembo was Mines Minister and toured the plant.
What I discovered then was that ZCCM used to produce gold, along with silver, selenium and other base metals from the slug that came from copper processing at the smelters in Luanshya, Kitwe, Mufulira and Chingola.
Strange as it may sound, production figures for the gold were not very well publicised, if at all. Or is it that we were only interested in production figures for the “almighty” copper? But stranger still, the same slag started finding its way to
where gold processing flourished by people who appeared to be from a neighbouring country. Mushili Township
The tell-tale signs for such activities were gas cylinders and large quantities of charcoal that were found at these backyard refineries. I would not be surprised if this is still going on not only in Mushili but in other areas of the Copperbelt.
During my visit to Baluba Shaft, I learnt from a geologist who conducted us underground that Baluba was actually more of a cobalt mine than a copper mine. In the same conversation, it was also mentioned that one previously closed mine in North-Western Province was more of a gold mine, by South African standards if I correctly remember what this geologist said, than a copper mine.
I do not know how true it is, but there were rumours that at the time of privatising the mines in the 1970s,
’s mineral maps disappeared with the departing foreign mine owners. Would it be surprising that someone somewhere knows where Zambia ’s Uranium deposits lie? Zambia
The Mines and Minerals Development Deputy Minister, Mr Maxwell Mwale should know that the “domestic” gold processors in Mushili did not need any licences to process the precious metal. All they needed was someone illegally supplying them with the slug. The gold probably ended up in a neighbouring country and onwards to
Who knows if someone has figured out how to process Uranium in domestic kilns and who knows where it could be ending up? Waiting for someone from Chipulukusu to queue up at the Ministry of Mines for a licence would be a waste of time if all it takes is a “mbaula” to process gold or Uranium and a brief-case to take it across the border.
Of course forget about how toxic the mercury is that is used in gold processing. Equally forget the radioactivity from Uranium. What matters is the money to be made from these illegal and dangerous activities
This is exactly the same with Zambian emeralds which are marketed as coming from one Middle Eastern country just because they are polished in that country and are probably not even registered at the Ministry of Mines even for statistical reasons.
What the Zambian government needs to do for now is to go back to the drawing boards for all things mining, mineral maps, royalties and all.—firstname.lastname@example.org.