Management of environmental risks arising from mining operations in Kitwe and Mufulira

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Nachalwe, Prisca
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The University of Zambia
Mining as an extractive industry has both positive and negative impacts. The positive impacts include economic growth and job creation whereas the negative impacts are environmental degradation and human health risks. On this premise this study was carried out in order: To i) identify risks posed by mining operations to the environment and human health in Kankoyo and Nkana West, ii) determine the extent to which the risk management strategies used by mining operators adequately address environmental and health risks in the study areas and, iii) examine the adequacy of institutional arrangements that govern environmental risk management in the mining sector. Data collection methods used in the study were a questionnaire survey, interviews, water sampling and testing. The results show that Kankoyo and Nkana West are characterised by pollution of air, water and land with Kankoyo being more affected. The prominent health problem was respiratory tract infections resulting from smelting activities at the mines with sulphur dioxide being the main air pollutant. Tests carried out on 30 water samples collected from Uchi Stream and Mwekera Stream (the control) respectively indicated that Uchi had above limit concentrations of cobalt, manganese and iron which were attributed to effluent discharged from the Nkana Mines. Uchi Stream had significantly higher (p<0.05) concentrations of copper, cobalt, manganese, iron and zinc than Mwekera Stream. Therefore, Uchi Stream was polluted by cobalt, manganese and iron from the Nkana Mines at the time of the research. The risk management strategies used by the mines were found to be inadequate for addressing environmental and health risks and the EMPs were not revised and audited as required by law. The institutional arrangements for management of mining environmental risks were not adequate as evidenced by the relevant authorities’ lack of vital monitoring equipment and human resource for ensuring that mining companies were in compliance with the environmental regulations. The study concludes that environmental risk management in the mining sector is not effectively addressing the risks posed by mining activities in Kitwe and Mufulira to the environment and human health. Therefore, there is need for Mopani Copper Mines and Konkola Copper Mines to implement proactive risk management strategies that will minimize mining and mineral processing risks from their operations.
Mineral industries--Environmental aspects-- Zambia