It feels untouched here in Zambia’s deep south but far from the eyes of the world the rights of the local community are being ignored and the environment is threatened.
The Zambian government has rented large tracts of community land in Sinazongwe, southern Zambia to a Chinese-mining company Collum Coal Mine who resent the local people and have banned them from earning an income from surface mining on claims of safety. Underground blasting in the mines has caused the water table to drop which means there is no clean water in the shallow wells. The streams in the area have nearly all dried up, and the water that does remain is polluted from the mine. The local women have to dig new scoop wells every day, lining up they take turns filling up buckets. Children play in the dams but the water makes their skin itch, sores appear on their feet and makes them sick.
Extractives Industries in Africa are extremely profitable but the benefits of natural resources often fail to trickle down to local communities. There is a need to focus on women’s rights and opportunities, women as primary caregivers bear the brunt of the negative impacts of mining. It is a challenge to document the impact the coal mining on local communities, but it is a critical step to help restore their rights to benefit from the natural resources and help protect the environment.
Oxfam has been working in extractives in southern Zambia for over 12 months, advocating for local communities to be able earn income by surface mining the coal like they used to, for the mine company to employ at least one family member at 600-800 Kwacha (USD 50-67) a month, and for the community to receive at least ten per cent of mining company’s profits for essential services like clinics, schools, roads, water and sanitation.
Commissioned by Oxfam Australia