MINING companies that pose a threat to human health and the environment in their operations must pay for their mistakes, says World Bank mining specialist Martin Lokanc.
Mr Lokanc said mining was an important sector in Zambia which came with huge investment without realizing that it could, on the other hand, harm people around mining areas.
He said a number of current operations continued to degrade the environment and that in some cases had made a huge human health impact.
“If you look at the case of Kabwe, it is listed as one of the most top ten polluted cities and this is as result of the mining that has happened over a 100 years now. A lot of contamination has taken place to soils,” he said.
Mr Lokanc explained that the dust blown by the wind in Kabwe affected women and children who swept it in their homes hence causing poor mental development.
“The wind blows, it takes dust out in the air and it blows into the neighbouring communities where it eventually settles and then keeps children or women sweeping this up and ingesting it. It is responsible for poor mental development,” he said.
He said much as mines were generating foreign exchange for the country, they had a significant human impact which mostly affected the younger ones.
Mr Lokanc said mining companies had to face the consequences of their carelessness.
He further said it was saddening that some mine companies did not care what happened to neighbouring homes as long as they got their profits from the minerals.
“Mining may have these positive aspects but it also has negative, social and environmental costs that spill over outside the mining sector. From an economic perspective, all those costs should be internalized and mining companies must bear the cost,” he said.
Mr Lokanc however said it was likely that some mining companies would close down if Government forced them to pay for environmental degredation.