Ministry of Mines Dragged Into Chongwe Mining Controversy
Information has emerged that some senior officials at Zambia’s Ministry of Mines are in the process of cancelling a valid prospecting licence held by Indian investors in Chongwe as part of a “carefully planned conspiracy” to award the same licence to a Chinese company with links to senior Chieftainess Nkomeshya’s daughter Elizabeth.
As previously reported in Zambia Reports, the Chinese mining group has for some time been operating an illegal mine, but has protected their interests thanks to close connections to the family of the traditional ruler, raising concerns of alleged corruption. Now it appears that the same forces behind this deal are working to retroactively apply the licence to the Chinese company, stripping the Indian investors of their rights.
Elizabeth, her husband Lennard Kawanu and two other Zambians George Mwamba and a Munkonge have Skyline Quarry and Busoli Development Company registered in their names and these firms are using the company China Jiangsu to conduct illegal mining in Chongwe.
According to sources at the Ministry of Mines and in Chieftainess Nkomeshya’s area, some directors had facilitated a meeting for mines Minister Christopher Yaluma to meet some headmen from Chieftainess Nkomeshya’s area and this is in a bid to tell the minister to cancel the prospecting licence for Vikram Investments Limited.
The headmen were acting on behalf of senior Chieftainess Nkomeshya and the plan is to influence the minister to cancel the prospecting licence for Vikram Investments Limited and later award it to China Jiangsu International Limited who are already conducting illegal mining in the area.
According to confidential sources, some headmen from Zone 10 in Shantumbu area were being sponsored by the Chinese who are paying them allowances and meeting their transport and food expenses.
The sources said the headmen had been sent to tell the minister that Vikram Investments had been denied a local consent letter to start mining and that it had no proper plan on how to integrate the local people for its business in preference for the Chinese, who have no prospecting licence and environmental management plan.
“There is a big scheme here because it is the Chinese who are doing the actual mining but the people who are claiming ownership of the prospecting area are the two companies belonging to the Chief’s daughter. These have no legal documents and their plan is for minister Yaluma to cancel the licence for Vikram Investments Limited and issue it to China Jiangsu International Limited. China Jiangsu will then be issued with a local recommendation from the local headmen in order for Chieftainess Nkomeshya to offer a consent letter needed to start mining activities after acquiring the prospecting licence. The Chinese and the firms for the Chieftainess’s daughter have found it hard to remove the Indians who have the legal documents from government. The Chinese now want the minister to cancel this licence for Indians so that they can have a lee-way after getting the local consent from the Chieftainess,” the source said.
Vikram Investments had sought a court injunction to stop the illegal mining but the Chinese and Chieftainess Nkomeshya’s daughter had ignored the court orders with impunity.
China Jiangsu International is currently conducting illegal quarrying in Shantumbu area of Chongwe without a prospecting licence and environmental certificates from the Zambia Environmental management Agency (ZEMA). According to sources, the Chinese are illegally mining over 11, 000 tonnes of aggregates daily and are allegedly not paying any taxes to the Zambia Revenue Authority.
“A miner can only pay taxes to the government after submitting their mining licence and other documents. These Chinese do not have those papers and it is clear that they are evading taxes,” the source said.
The sources said Vikram Investment Limited may lose its prospecting licence by Friday this week in an event the Ministry of Mines cancels their licence.
But mines Christopher Yaluma said he was not going to revoke the mining licence for Vikram Investments Limited.
He said Vikram Investments Limited was legal owner of the prospecting land where the China Jiangsu International Limited and Nkomeshya’s companies were currently conducting illegal quarrying and mining activities.
Yaluma said the matter involving Vikram Investments Limited, China Jiangsu International, Skyline Quarry Limited and Busoli Development Company was in court and it would be contempt to cancel the licence before the matter was determined by the court.
“The decision by the courts to sustain the injunction against the Chinese company must be respected by all parties and the Ministry of Mines has no power to disregard matters that are in court,” he said.
He said the matter was between Vikram Investments Limited and China Jiangsu International Limited and Nkomeshya’s two companies would be resolved through the courts of law that will determine the rightful owner of the premises.
However, Yaluma said from the onset, the rightful owner of the prospecting land in question was Vikram Investment Limited because the Indian firm had a legal prospecting licence ZEMA had approved environmental report.
“As far as I am concerned, the owner of that particular land is the one with a mining licence. The ministry has no power to revoke the licence of Vikram even before the matter has been disposed of by the courts,” he said.