MINES Minister Richard Musukwa says the mining and exploration of manganese in Luapula province is in disarray as it has been dominated by illegal miners.

The Minister was responding to Serenje MMD member of parliament Maxwell Kabanda who wanted to find out what specific measures the Government was taking to harness the mining of manganese and gold to ensure that the country benefits from the resources.

In response to a follow up question by Milenge PF member of parliament Mwansa Mbulakulima who was asking whether the Minister was aware of the confusion obtaining in Luapula Province over the mining of manganese, Musukwa noted that he had directed that all illegal operations be ceased in the area.

“Mr Speaker, because we realised this state of affairs and I must say that this was actually aggregated up to the Head of State through various Chiefs and the Ministry of Mines, who actually holds a bureau in Luapula, we undertook a visit, myself and the permanent secretary, my director of mines and senior government officials including the Provincial Minister for Luapula province and some MPs. Mr Speaker, the finding on the ground was quite pathetic and government immediately directed that all illegal processes, regardless of who was behind them must come to an end and that only formalised legal entities, both local and international must be supported. We think very strongly that if the manganese exploitation in Luapula is properly organised, it will create employment for our people and also contribute to the economic performance of the province and the entire country,” Musukwa said.

“Mr Speaker, to borrow his words, mining operation and exploitation of manganese in Luapula province is disorganised, it’s in disarray, it’s mainly anchored on illegal people and government is not getting any value from the resources that exists in Luapula because it is exploited by illegal people and in many cases they have chosen to blackmail government and use of unskilled, unlicensed, and in many cases Mr Speaker, even juveniles, which is against the law.”

And Musukwa also noted that illegal miners have exploited manganese under the guise of empowerment and destroyed road infrastructure and flouted environmental regulations.

He was responding to a follow up question by Kabanda who wanted to find out whether the K100 per tonne that is collected from manganese is enough to fix the damage that the hauling of the mineral has done to various roads and bridges.

“I want to state that it is regrettable that illegal miners, men and women who did not possess licenses, went ahead to exploit this resource at the guise of empowerment and destroyed the road infrastructure including other environmental matters and it’s regrettable that this process was allowed by our local authorities who have been collecting K100 for the transportation of these resources. First, Mr Speaker, government’s focus is to ensure that all mining operations are undertaken by licences holders because licensed holders have an obligation at law and secondly, licensed holders have a mandate to ensure that before they start exploiting the resource, they submit a program of action, a mining program which is approved by the mine safety and the director of mines in terms of ensuring that they are focused on international best practice. So in view of the destruction that has been done, the money being collected by local council can indeed not mitigate this process and because of this urgency, we have directed the mine safety to invoke it’s provision on the use of the environmental fund and mitigate this process before we have a crisis in terms of the road structure giving in,” said Musukwa.

He however noted that since being granted a license in June 2020, ZCCM-IH managed to recover in excess of over 80kg of gold in Mwinilunga.