Multinationals shouldn’t blackmail State

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Banner 3” class=”f”>Zambia Daily Mail by Online Editor on 6/21/13

THE arm-twisting and pure blackmail that seem to be characterising the relationship between government and multinational companies, especially in the mining sector, are worrying and should come to an end.
We feel it is time government put its foot down and rejected this horse-rider kind of treatment with these transnational corporations to protect the interest of Zambians.
The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) has said it issued an environmental protection order on First Quantum Minerals (FQM) to suspend its multimillion dollar projects at Kalumbila in North-Western Province to address the concerns which had been raised.
ZEMA principal information and communication officer Ireen Chipili said in a statement on Thursday FQM began the construction of Chisola dam without necessary approvals from the agency as required by the law.
Ms Chipili also said a ministerial committee established by President Sata to look into the controversies surrounding the projects discovered that Kalumbila mine had acquired surface rights on 50,000 hectares of customary land irregularly without presidential approval as required by law.
Now FQM wants to offload 500 workers claiming that it cannot sustain a large workforce as it awaits the lifting of the protection order by ZEMA.
It is not right for the mining giant to threaten to retrench such a large number of workers without considering the consequences of such a decision.
government has demonstrated its desire to resolve the controversy surrounding the Sentinel Mine project by involving ministers and the President.
It cannot be disputed that the mine will help reduce poverty in the country, especially in North-Western Province, by employing thousands of Zambians once it becomes fully operational.
Why should FQM find it difficult to sit down with government and present its case for an expeditious solution so that the project resumes?
We are sure government would like to see the successful implementation of the project because it fits into its broad development agenda.
The company has already projected a significant increase in copper production as a result of the expansion. This will mean an increase in copper exports and more foreign exchange coming into the country.
It also means more money in government’s coffers for the implementation of various projects in different sectors.
government is fully aware that it needs more revenue to finance its budget and deliver essential services such as education, healthcare, trade facilitation and infrastructure development.
In short, it needs partners such as FQM to help it meet the needs of citizens.
But this partnership must be anchored on mutual respect and the principle of mutual benefit.
It is not necessary for the mining company to throw such a large number of workers, most of whom have families to look after, onto the streets simply because government has slammed breaks on a project to correct some wrongs surrounding the acquisition of land rights and related issues.
There is always room for dialogue. There must be a convergent point.
We are worried about the manner in which multinational companies are handling operational and administrative challenges as they seek to expand their revenue bases.
Recently, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) announced its intention to sack 2,000 miners citing unsustainable operational costs and external factors.
The company was forced to rescind or shelve its plans after sparking an outcry.
There is no justification for all this arm-twisting aimed at wringing concessions out of government.
Let there be channels through which Government should be engaging with the private sector, especially the multinational companies, to discuss issues of mutual interest.