Minister of Green Economy and Environment, Hon. Eng. Collins Nzovu MP, has uncovered what he describes as the worst pollution ever at Jinfa Steel Limited in Kalulushi District of the Copperbelt Province.
Accompanied by officials from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) and the Forestry Department, Hon. Nzovu visited Jinfa Steel Limited, a steel manufacturing company that uses scrap steel as raw material to produce steel bars for concrete reinforcement in various sizes.
The Minister expressed shock that workers at the company were operating in such an environmentally hazardous setting without adequate protective clothing.
It was discovered that the company was in violation of both environmental and labor laws. Notably, there was no internal air emission monitoring system or pollution control device on the smelter stack to monitor the quality of emissions released into the open environment. Fugitive emissions were also observed in the furnace section area.
Employees working in the furnace section did not have sufficient personal protective equipment, exposing them to fine dust and smelting fumes.
Hazardous waste receptacles were lacking, and the few that were present were not properly labeled. Hydrocarbon spillages (used oil) were found on open, unsealed surfaces in the environment.
Moreover, dust suppression measures were absent, and there were no warning signs for workers regarding the hazardous nature of the work environment. Raw materials were haphazardly stockpiled, with sharp metal pieces obstructing walkways.
ZEMA has ordered the immediate cessation of all operations at the plant and has demanded compliance with the Decision Letter and License conditions.
In another instance, at Rongxing Investments Limited in Mufulira, Copperbelt Province, an operator of a copper ore processing plant, including the production of copper cathodes and copper concentrate, was found to have no qualified personnel in the fields of Metallurgy, Mining, and Environment.
The tailings dam walls had not been rehabilitated, and there were no monitoring wells for assessing potential groundwater pollution. The absence of dust suppression measures led to high dust emissions at the tailings dam.
ZEMA has directed the facility to promptly suppress dust on the facility’s roads by applying materials like laterite and a binding agent such as molasses. Additionally, they must remove the tailings from two coffer dams by October 31th, 2023.
At Sino Metals Leach Zambia Limited in Kalulushi District, the company had reported a dam wall failure in July, which led to the discharge of waste process material into a drain that flows into Lulamba Stream, a tributary of Lukoshi Stream, ultimately draining into the Kafue River.
During the Minister’s site visit, it was evident that the tailings dam walls had not been fully rehabilitated and were at risk of collapse.
Significant quantities of the contained material had been discharged from the dam wall into Lulamba Stream, leading to a color change to blue and low pH levels, indicating acidity in the water.
This pollution had adverse effects on small-scale farmers growing vegetables along the banks of the Lulamba stream. Sino Metals Leach Zambia Limited was still under a Compliance Order issued today on October 11th, 2022, which instructed the facility to cease discharging acidic effluent into the aquatic environment, fully comply with Decision Letter Conditions, and compensate affected farmers.
Hon. Nzovu expressed his concern about the worsening pollution levels on the Copperbelt but assured that the government would not allow the situation to persist.
ZEMA Acting Principal Inspector, Mr. Silvester Ng’uni, stated that the Compliance Order would only be lifted after the facility fully adheres to ZEMA’s directives.