Mines Minister Richard Musukwa says the decision by Vedanta Resources to drag government to international arbitration following the seizure of Konkola Copper Mine (KCM) is evil and a sign that it wants to continue abusing Zambians.
And Musukwa says government cannot waste time worrying about paying Vedanta compensation should the former be found to be in breach of the Shareholders’ Agreement.
In an interview with News Diggers! Musukwa said the Zambian government was not moved by Vedanta’s actions because it was an evil deed which was not going to bear any fruit.
“I am not aware of such a process, but we have heard them (Vedanta) dramatising international press as regards that process. First and foremost, as government, we will not be drawn in international waters without exhaustively dealing with the issues with competent courts and jurisdictions in the Republic of Zambia. We enjoy sovereignty and the atrocities committed by KCM against the people of Zambia are domiciled in the Republic of Zambia. So, attempts to start another process at a different jurisdiction is meant to undermine the Zambian judicial process, and it will not be entertained! In fact, even at an international space, I don’t think there is a legal system that can entertain draconian systems that Konkola Copper Mines has subjected the people of Zambia to,” Musukwa said.
He wondered how Vedanta was eager to fight against the KCM seizure when it had always paid a deaf ear to people’s complaints against its works.
“You must know that we are dealing with a company that has abrogated the laws of Zambia. Really, they flouted the Mines and Minerals Act in terms of ensuring that they abide with the conditions of grant for the license, with impunity! And instead of trying to postulate in international space, they must be able to own up and accept that they have failed the people of Zambia! They failed to develop Konkola Deep (Mining Project); they have failed to exploit the Nchanga Ore Body. These are the issues they must be talking to. I am even surprised that they are being entertained at international platforms because I expect international discourse to hold mining companies, such as multinational companies of a magnitude like KCM, accountable in areas where they have invested,” he added.
“It is not a secret that KCM has been dragged to international courts because of how they have polluted the environment. How come they have not moved swiftly to ameliorate such challenges? The issue at hand, which Vedanta needs to carefully and serious be looking at, is that they failed to mobilise resources to recapitalise the operations and that is what has necessitated these challenges at KCM. We have over thousands of local contractors and suppliers, including employees, who have not been paid! If you look at the environment and surrounding operations for KCM where they operate, it’s a sorry site! And they must be addressing themselves to such issues.”
He predicted that Vedanta would not succeed with its protest against the Zambian government in the international space.
“Their propensity to paint the Zambian government black in the international platform because they have enough money to waste instead of investing in the operations, is a matter of public legal matter. In fact, Zambians are surprised that they have even opened a page to speak about Konkola when it has taken them years to do that. You can clearly see that this is a group of people who are determined to ensure that they continue abusing the people of Zambia. But we will not accept that,” Musukwa insisted.
And asked if government would be willing to compensate Vedanta if it was ruled that the Zambian government was in breach of the Shareholders’ Agreement, he said government cannot talk about the possibility of paying any compensation as Vedanta was in the wrong.
“Why are you jumping to go to compensation? Why are you not talking about why they have not paid the contractors and suppliers in Zambia? Those are the issues; they should pay contractors and suppliers in Zambia, not talking about compensation! That is a mark of crooked people; they must own up and ensure that the huge liabilities that they have among the people of Zambia are paid, those are the key issues… what compensation? There is a legal process in Zambia and it must be followed. So, to want to drag the Zambian government in international waters is an exercise in futility! That propaganda machinery, which they have put in place and the fight that they are putting in place, for your information, we were very aware that they would put up this splendid fight in order to perpetuate their evil deeds in Zambia,” said Musukwa.