Mines and Minerals Development Minister Paul Kabuswe has assured Zambians that the Government will involve the public in finding solutions to the impasse surrounding the disputed ownership of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).
Mr. Kabuswe said the Government is aware of people’s complaints and reservations against Indian investor Vedanta Mineral Resources, who have expressed willingness to return to KCM.
Speaking during a recent stakeholders meeting organised by the Chingola clergy at Life Gospel Fellowship Ministries International, Mr. Kabuswe said the Government will prioritise the interest of Zambians during negotiations.
He also repeated that the Government alone cannot resolve the KCM issues minus involving Vedanta.
“We are now in charge and we have to deal with the mess at KCM. It is so messy because for us we are saying can we unlock all the assets including KCM and Mopani Copper Mines. Right now, you heard my statement I think two days ago where I said the next arbitration between us (Government) and Vedanta is in January 2023. So what do we do between now and then? That’s why His Excellency the President is saying let us get out of court. Let us sit down and talk. So getting out of court is talking to whom? I want us to answer that (telling the gathering). We are getting out of court with whom? (Vedanta the crowd responded. So they are the character to sit down with, we have to sit with the demons and discuss. That is the scenario we have found ourselves in,” Mr. Kabuswe said.
“They (Vedanta) are not going to go by blowing them. No. it is by sitting with them. We either choose to sit with them in court or we sit with them outside court and say guys we cannot mine in court. I have said as a Minister, we have been mining in court. I have heard all the complaints but we have to sit with the devil. The option is either we wait for 2023 and when we are saying January 2023 arbitration it’s not just the finality to the discussion. It can even be adjoined again to June. So meaning we will have protracted legal battles. We can’t win like that. So what we need is support from the Church. I like the permutations given by Bishop Joseph Kazhila. The permutations that Bishop Kazhila has put across we must open our minds like he was saying that we need to look at what are the different permutations about resolving this Vedanta issue. Like the NDC President (George Sichula) said, let’s not work with the knife to resolve a matter. We must go with an open mind. As a government we have not given a position. It stands as it is that Vedanta lost its social license,” he said.
Mr. Kabuswe said Zambians have a chance to make proposals to the Government on how best KCM could be unlocked.
“I want to assure you the kind of President that you have and the kind of government we are not going to negotiate things to please anyone. Any negotiations that we are going into as a government, we are not going from a position of weakness. We are going from a position of strength because these assets are sitting in Zambia. You elected us to make sure that these assets can benefit the people of Zambia and we are going with that in mind. Wherever we are negotiating, KCM, Mopani..I have complaints and issues on how Vedanta treated people. I have taken your word. I will sit with the President; this is the feeling of the pastors. Whatever permutations we will follow we will carry the nation along. We may not call all of you. Quickly after this discussion do a position paper on the different permutations that you would want for Vedanta so when you give a position paper on various suggestions that you have. If it goes to this, we want you to do this; if it goes to that we want you to do this,” Mr. Kabuswe continued.
He added:”I am alive to the fact that Zambia has been mining since the 1900s, we have people, we have engineers, we have accountants, and we have people that have been metallurgists for a long time. The mining brains are there in Zambia but get the mining brains to bring them together, do proper negotiations, and do a proper transaction. What are you going to do about salaries? What are you going to do about CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)? What are you going to do about the mining license? What are you going to do about the roads where you are sitting?”
In his remarks, Chingola senior clergy Bishop Joseph Kazhila asked the government to find a credible investor to run KCM.
Bishop Kazhila said people want an investor who will have the interest of Zambians at heart.