CARITAS Zambia has welcomed the suspension of issuance of mining licenses but has challenged the government to clean up all the loopholes surrounding the process.

In an interview, Friday, Caritas Zambia executive director Eugene Kabilika urged the Ministry of Mines to be careful when issuing out licenses and ensure that they pay attention to the rights of the communities that may be displaced as a result of the mines.

“To suspend the mining licenses is a good idea as long as the government cleans up all these loopholes that have been there so that people who actually deserve can get mining licenses. They [need to] pay attention to the rights of holders who own the surface rights so that there is an agreement between one who has a mining license [and] one who owns surface right. In most cases, people who own surface rights are the poor people in the villages who are normally displaced and they get nothing out of it. The ministry of mines must pay attention to the needs of the Zambians. Licenses given must make sure that they are given in a way that pays attention to the rights of the communities that may be displaced as a result of the mines,” he said.

“So we hope that the ministry of mines will now be very careful in the way they give out these licenses. Sometimes people buy these licenses, they get the license then they sell it, they have no capacity to do anything so they look for somebody who buys it then they go away with money. Then this other guy goes and does whatever he does, that is cheating. So if you are looking for a mining license, make sure that you have capacity to mine or you have an equity partner that you are going to work with.

And Kabilika said civil society organisations expected government to conduct a clean-up in the mining sector.

“Most of the colleagues in the civil society organisations are looking for a situation where there is some kind of a clean-up to get the system back to normal. One of the areas which the government is doing is this license issue. They need to clean up, they should not be scared that others will complain or big people will start making noise. They simply need to clean up these issues of mining licenses. Based on some of the lessons we have learnt from the mining Indaba we have held in the past since we began the conversation or the dialogue between the mines, the government, the local communities as well as civil society in various parts of the country where mining is taking place, one of the complaints that have been coming from the communities there is the way the ministry of mines has been dealing with the issue of mining licenses or Exploration Licenses,” said Kabilika.

“Some of the people have been awarded the exploration licenses and before you know it, they have already started mining. Some of them in the pretense that they are taking samples for further analysis. And that way, the country has been losing, especially, precious minerals. People get precious minerals in the name of analyzing samples. So the local communities including chiefs have been complaining about this from the ministry of mines and it seems like nothing is happening.”