FEIRA PF member of parliament Emmanuel Tembo says he is ready to ferry residents of Luangwa district to Lusaka in order to demonstrate their happiness the prospects of mining in the Lower Zambezi.

And Tembo says Luangwa district is undergoing a serious economic catastrophe due to lack of economic activity, arguing that opening up of the mine adds value not only to the district’s economy but also the country’s.

In an interview, Tembo said if government wanted to increase copper production, it could only do so by opening up new mines.

“You know we the people of Feria have the biggest say on this and not any other person. When God created the world, he created man last so that he can use the things he created earlier. The survival of man is very important than any other creation. As far as Feira constituency is concerned, Luangwa district has got no industry whatsoever. Generally, there is no economic activity because there are no industries. In other words, the poverty levels are very high. What we want as people of Luangwa is industrialisation of the district and the starting point is the opening up of the large scale mine which is very rich in gold and copper as minerals. We are so happy that government’s hands are tied because they cannot do anything,” he said.

“The government needs to increase copper production to 3 million tonnes per year. How do they achieve that? It is by opening up new mines. There is nothing to be said against that. The people who are making noise against the mine don’t even know where it is located. Secondly, they are saying this because it is fashionable to talk about environmental issues. We protect the environment for the sake of people. So people cannot die when the environment is protected. So the mine will help the people of Feira to a large extent. There will be 500 direct jobs and there will be indirect jobs because of suppliers. Mining triggers other economic activities such as the food industry, transportation and lodging.”

Tembo said relevant stakeholders needed to put the interests of the people first.

“I am happy the Minister mentioned that mining will continue on strict observance of the ZEMA conditions. I have worked for NGOs for over 20 years and they seek funding based on an idea they do not even believe in. Funders out of the country were willing to put in a lot of money, so they sponsor NGOs to talk about environmental issues. What we need is to strike a balance between environmental protection. So the people are not talking on the basis of the needs of the Zambian people but on the needs of people that give them funding. So let them look at the interests of the people of Luangwa,” he said.

“Whilst they will be demonstrating for the closure of the mine, I am also going to bring the entire Luangwa people. So you should announce that the member of Parliament will bring the entire Luangwa district to Lusaka to demonstrate their happiness on the opening of the mine. You know animals are being airlifted from that same lower Zambezi to other countries but we do not know all those things. So I would rather we open a formal mine so that people benefit. We need to be independent in our approach to foster development.”

Tembo said industrialisation in the district would open up various opportunities for the local people.

“So for us we see it as an opportunity that God gave us that this district should start from somewhere. The starting point for serious industrialisation is the opening up of that mine. Any closure of that mine means you are closing up opportunities for the district. People do not have proper survival so they earn an income through wrong things. There is serious charcoal burning. The same reasons we want to close the mine, we will end up wiping out all the trees which are important for rainfall and other things,” said Tembo.

“Secondly, because there are no jobs, people engage in illicit activities. If parents fail to pay for school fees due to lack of employment, their children stay out of school. So in other words, there is a serious economic catastrophe in the district because of lack of employment and economic activity. So the opening up of the mine adds value not only to the economy of the district but also the country. So the views of the Laungwa people are that the mine must open. We will be on them ourselves for corporate social responsibility even as they make their profits. The government must leave it as it is.”