How Glencore did the right thing and how the MMTA was part of the story.

 

In 2008 I travelled to Mufulira in Zambia for the first time. After 30 years of knowing the name it was good to be there. As MMTA members know, it is the place where the British mined copper from the late 1920s and is synonymous with the red metal. So steeped in copper is the town, that the locals cannot conceive of life without it. I was regularly asked how we mine copper in London and Somerset.
   
Today, schools in Somerset have been twinning with Mufulira for 20 years and, more recently, the exchange programme has been funded by donations from members at our annual dinner and other events. It is a charitable link that makes sense – a metals industry reaching out to a metal town.
 
But just to remind MMTA members, let me tell you about our journey from 2008. The town I visited in that year was still blighted by sulphur emissions vented to the atmosphere for as long as the smelter had been in operation. The lives of 300,000 were affected  daily. It is the particular feature of sulphur that, if inhaled, the victim feels choked. However irrational, the person feels he is being strangled.
 
MMTA became part of the advocacy for removal of airborne sulphur and perhaps our representations were  taken seriously because we are of the metal trade and not an NGO with a world agenda.
Today, all airborne pollution is gone and that is thanks not to the British, or the  Zambians under ZCCM, (neither of whom captured sulphur), but to Glencore.
 
The purpose of my trip just now in October 2014 was to witness this transformation. From a smelter that emitted sulphur to one that recycles gases from every part of the plant and safely recovers all other deleterious elements. Instead of emissions to the atmosphere the plant produces 2000 metric tons per day of safe industrial sulphuric acid, some of which is used for electrolysis in the refinery.
Perhaps you will gain a better impression via the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos attached to this report.
 
photo 2.jpg           Smelter emissions - March 20-28th_2009.jpg
Photo courtesy of Hilary Forward
 
Therefore, in summary, I would like to be the first to pay credit to Glencore who spent $500 mln to do this job. As far as I can tell, it is to the highest world standards. At the same time they have been open with me and our groups from Somerset inviting us to see progress on our annual visits and always available to answer questions too.
 
Apart from the acid plant, Mopani have opened a state-of-the-art training centre for locals to learn skills as fitters, boiler-makers, electricians, mechanics. We have seen  new clinics in the community, a cervical smear programme, newly-built roads, the restored fooball stadium (home to the Mufulira Wanderers) and many more examples all attributable to Glencore’s work in the community.
I heard it said that Mopani is now regarded as the best mining company in the copperbelt and best payer too. That is a reputation well-earned.
 
The MMTAs linking with the community will not end. We have completed storage tanks at Kamuchanga Hospital and the new laundry is now working. A second stand is serving the Robin’s Nest Orphanage. The previously donated anaesthetic machine is still saving lives and the autoclaves for sterilising surgical instruments are giving good service .
 
If anyone from the MMTA is travelling in Zambia, please feel free to contact me and see the work that is being done and see for yourself a little part of this story.
 
Anthony Lipmann 31.10.14
 

 

 

The MMTA's industry link with Mufulira, Zambia

View the recent ICMM report on Enhancing mining's contribution to the Zambian economy and society.  Part of the Mining: Partnerships for Development - Spotlight series 18

In 2008, the MMTA initiated a link between our minor metals' industry and the mining community of Mufulira in Zambia, at the heart of the copper belt.

Approximately 300,000 of Zambia’s approximate 12 million people live in the town of Mufulira, an urban town centred around the mine and smelting complex of Mopani. Most families are in some way involved with the copper industry and the mine, which was first excavated in 1933. In those days the ore at the surface graded at 5% Copper content. Today, the content is lower, at 2%, but with more efficient technology and deeper mining (up to 1.5 km depth) the mine is still profitable for its owners. 70% of the town’s water comes from aquifers released through mining and pumped to the surface.

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Assembly at Mano Basic School, Mufulira 

Children in Mufulira attend a wide variety of state-run schools, based on the British system, adopted (and since adapted) following independence in 1964. Schools include Mufulira High School, Mano Basic, Muleya Winter Basic and many more, which all do their best to provide an education that will satisfy the demands of a growing middle class (the young who have ambitions to grow up to be doctors, teachers, engineers). The late President, Dr Levy Mwanawasa, was originally a mining engineer from Mufulira. Many of the current members of government come from this town and some even gained their education in the schools mentioned above.

In 1995, the people of Castle Cary in Somerset initiated a link between schools in this part of the UK, which has now endured for almost 20 years. The Cary-Mufulira Community Partnership Trust (CMCPT) was established, as well as its counterpart in Zambia, the Mufulira-Cary Community Partnership Trust (MCCPT). Building durable links, through which both Zambian and UK communities can learn from each other, has been the ethos. Getting close to each other as communities has had a powerful influence on both sides, providing the continuity that is required in order to make charitable work effective.

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A patient at Kamuchanga Hospital, Zambia 

Reliant on extractive industries at the foundation of what we do in the Minor Metals Trade, our members have understood that an industry link with such a region makes sense. In the last five years, we were able to raise, through individual donations and the MMTA's Anniversary Dinners, donations of over £50,000, which have been channelled into furthering the exchanges between Zambia and UK. This money assisted with the funding of the incoming teachers and pupils from Zambia, as well as a series of specific small scale projects.

In March 2009, an anaesthetic machine was provided to a township hospital in the environs of Mufulira called Kamuchanga, serving 90,000 people. The surgeon had hitherto performed all minor operations without anaesthesia, and the hospital was forced to turn away patients in need of operations to larger hospitals further afield. Here at Kamuchanga, this state-run hospital was created from the buildings of a miners' tavern, facilitated and originally made available via the Town Clerk’s office, with whom the MMTA has contact. The hospital is growing in efficiency with the assistance of a very strong Rotary link, and now with MMTA assistance too. There is also an Aids clinic supported with anti-retroviral drugs supplied through a US Aid programme, as well as an X-Ray unit and services to fight malaria and TB.

Since writing our last report, we can now report that with the assistance and co-operation of Rotary Intl and MMTA member donations, a £20,000 project has been completed to bring 24-hour running water to Kamuchanga Hospital, as well as Robin’s Nest Orphanage. Storage tanks and pumps now allow water to be stored at both locations, so that use is constant even though water supply from the local water company is rationed.  In tandem, the Zambian Ministry of Health is providing new washing machines, ironers and dryers to Kamuchanga which could not have been utilised without the installation of the water storage.

Finally, there is another potentially good news story worth reporting – it is that following a substantial investment by Glencore into their 73% owned Mopani operation, the capture of sulphur emissions to the atmosphere may be achieved by the end of this year (2013). Work is already at an advanced stage and, if achieved, will free the citizens of Mufulira from the bane of airborne pollution for the first time since copper was smelted by the British in the 1930s. It will be a lasting, valuable, and timely achievement, which will positively affect the entire population who have stoically put up with the debilitating effects of airborne sulphur for so long.

There is a quote in the book by Dee Brown, ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee’ (1970) attributed to Crazy Horse, the Oglala Sioux Leader which says:

‘One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk’

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Smelter emissions, Mufulira, Zambia 

Unfortunately, metal merchants, commodity traders and miners do. It is our job. Moving earth, the ore, and the metals derived therefrom.  Perhaps, in some way, therefore, we can move the product of that earth: high tech equipment, and some human kindness, back in return.

If anyone reading this would like to know more about the work we are trying to do in Mufulira, please contact me, Anthony Lipmann, on 01932 224344 or via the MMTA office. We can guide and talk about specific, targeted projects in Mufulira and we can also facilitate trips more widely in Zambia via the eco-friendly and not-for-profit travel organisation, INTRO-ZAMBIA, which has access to a Bungalow in Mufulira and which is used as a base for the work we do, and whose guidance has been essential in building the MMTA-Mufulira link.

Contact: Dr Laura Tilling on 01963 351461 or see http://www.introzambia.co.uk/.

If you would like to make a donation to support the valuable work that the Cary-Mufulira Community Partnership Trust is doing in Mufulira, please click here.