After years of resident complaints of toxic fumes and health issues, Government has ordered the closure of the Chinese-owned Collum coal mine in Sinazongwe district in Southern Province. This comes two weeks after the MakanDay-funded analysis confirmed residents in areas surrounding the mine drink contaminated water.

The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (Zema) had asked for sufficient time to investigate the matter before providing MakanDay with a comprehensive response.

But on 30 November2022, the environmental protection agency issued an order for the mine “to immediately cease mining activities at shafts one, two, three and six as the said activities lead to the discharge of wastewater into the local streams”.

Zema corporate affairs manager Friday Phiri, confirmed “an order has been issued to cease operations at the Collum coal mine until the owners put certain measures in place”.

Some of the measures are, to install ambient air dust monitoring equipment and dust suppression mechanisms on all crusher plants and access roads, construct effective and efficient facilities for the treatment of wastewater and prepare a resettlement action plan and relocate all the people living near the mine.

According to the decision letter seen by MakanDay: “All ongoing activities relating to sinking of shaft 3b and shaft 6b within mining area No. 20405-HQ-LML without written approval from the Agency, contrary to the provisions of the Environmental Management (Licensing) Regulations, 2013.”

Collum coal mine director’s technical advisor Charles Nindiwe, said he could not comment because he had not received the official order.

Residents in Sinazongwe had long complained of toxic fumes and persistent health problems including stomach pains, headaches, dizziness and nausea. The neighborhood is surrounded by the mine site.

Another Chinese mine closed

Zema also closed Sezic Resource Limited, another Chinese-owned small scale mine in Kahulo village, in senior chief Mweemba’s chiefdom in Sinazongwe district for violating environmental laws.

The agency has directed the owners of the mine “to comply in full” and “conduct mining and related activities in such a way that public and private property, health, and livelihood, especially crop fields, shall not be damaged, negatively affected, or lost”.

Nkadabbwe area councilor Charles Ntiiti has welcomed the decision to close the mines and hoped the residents would have an improved lifestyle once the mines are re-opened.

"We want to see the residents receive clean water, and they should be relocated to safer places, unlike the current situation… that is endangering people’s lives," he said. “And if the issue of dust could be addressed, that would be beneficial to the residents."

He has urged Zema to ensure that the mines are only opened once safety measures are implemented.