First Quantum Minerals’ Hypocrisy Exposed
The Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) is pleased that First Quantum Minerals (FQM) Kansanshi mine has finally appointed a Zambian as the mine’s General Manager. SARW would like to congratulate Mr Anthony Mukutuma on his appointment.
However, the Zambian people (and the world) must know that this did not happen as a result of any genuine change in FQM’s management policy. The company was pushed into this as a result of our advocacy. SARW is satisfied that its advocacy is benefitting the Zambian people. FQM is responding to the findings of our research report (soon to be published). SARW conducted research into the governance and corporate social responsibility (CSR) of Kansanshi Mine. The main findings of this research were sent to the Kansanshi management for a response prior to publication of the report.
Kansanshi has responded with a warning letter from its lawyers, Werksmans from Stellenbosch in South Africa, threatening to sue SARW if we dare to publish the report. SARW is consulting its own lawyers, and soon the report will be published.
Meanwhile, the Zambian people must know what is happening with a company that their government has entrusted with extraction of the country’s resources.
Following the lawyer’s letter from the company, SARW would like to expose the hypocrisy of First Quantum Minerals. On the one hand it dismisses our research findings with threats of defamation, and on the other it moves quickly to fix the very problems raised in the report. While contesting the validity of the research, the company has proceeded to address a number of problems before the report can be published.
For the past two years, SARW has been working towards ensuring that FQM improves the quality of its social investment for poor communities in Solwezi District. Inadequate facilities is one of the many issues that SARW has repeatedly raised with FQM.
Our research report questions the quality of the education and health support the company provides to poor communities, the owners of the land where it extracts high-grade copper and gold. Most projects’ infrastructure is of low quality and inadequate. Schools and clinics dedicated to poor communities are poorly planned with no hygiene, security, or environmental considerations. These are the communities who suffer the consequences of the mine’s pollution and displacement. The contrast between schools for poor communities and the private school that Kansanshi has built for privileged students from rich families (mostly from outside Solwezi) is reminiscent of the apartheid education system, only in this case the division is not based on race but on class. This approach compromises the value of the company’s investment and exposes its poor understanding of CSR. The SARW research indicates that the education institutions are not gifts to the communities; they are income-generating commodities adding to the profits of the corporation and those subcontracted to operate them.
One issue that SARW has raised is the lack of science laboratories at poor schools. In its press release of 14 of March 2020, SARW urged the company to build a science laboratory of same standard as that which it has built for the rich students of Trident College. We were therefore happy to hear that the company has recently started construction of a science laboratory at Kyafukumu village.
Our report also raises the problem of the composition of the board and its sub-committees. The research found (for example) that there was only one Zambian national on the board. The research also revealed considerable gender and race disparities, as management remains predominantly male and white – contradicting both the company’s claim to be inclusive and the national gender policy. It is clear that the company’s claim to gender inclusivity is mere rhetoric.
Like other foreign companies in Africa, FQM does not take kindly to being investigated. SARW has the right to raise issues of public concern, and companies must be advised that the political cost of brushing aside the efforts of concerned citizens’ may not be minimal.
The road that SARW has travelled with FQM has taught us two important lessons. First, civil society must remain faithful to their values and purpose. Second, companies’ arrogance and their resistance to external enquiry is likely to be counterproductive in the long run. Companies such as FQM need to be prepared to open themselves up to rigorous scrutiny by government, civil society organisations, communities, and research institutions.
SARW hopes that the new General Manager will take a serious look into the company’s corporate social responsibility programme, to ensure that it genuinely respects the people of Zambia. SARW has recommended that the Zambian government should legislate Corporate Social Responsibility. Its current voluntary nature is the problem. It encourages inconsistencies and superficial CSR interventions by mining companies.
SARW: Always watching, real issues, real change for real people’s lives
Mr. Edward Lange
Research and Advocacy Officer
Tel: +260 966 533 874