RESIDENTS of Kalumbila area in Chief Musele's chiefdom in North-Western Province had a rare treatment when they had a glimpse of First Republican President Kenneth Kaunda who toured the US$2 billion First Quantum Minerals (FQM) Sentinel mine.
Dr Kaunda popularly known as 'KK' was in the area on an official visit to FQM Sentinel mine which is under construction in Solwezi.
The mine intends to spend over $11 milion on the resettlement procedures, $13 million on social contributions and has so far employed 3,000 employees of which 1,750 were from North-western Province.
During the visit, the first Republican president sang his famous 'Tiyende Pamodzi' so to the amusement of residents who had not seen him from the time he left office in 1991.
Dr Kaunda commended the people of Kalumbila for supporting FQM Project.
He said this when he addressed the people who welcomed him at the airstrip before leaving for Sentinel camp.
Sentinel mine is situated in Kalumbila which is about 160 kilometres away from Solwezi District.
Dr Kaunda said he was impressed with what the young foreign investors were doing in the country after a presentation by the Sentinel Minerals Limited assistant general manager Tristan Pascall.
During his presentation Mr Pascall explained that FQM had applied for a leasehold title two years ago for the construction of a mining township but Government had not yet responded.
He said the mining township to be called the new Copperbelt would accommodate 10,000 houses and would have attendant facilities such as a police station, health centre, shopping centre, an international school and close to 700 staff houses.
Mr Pascall said the delays in lease of title in the town was stifling opportunities for Zambian investors, making it difficult for them to own houses, and creating informal settlements in surrounding villages.
He explained that Sentinel was expected to produce 300,000 tonnes of copper per annum and that the concentrates would be treated at the smelter being constructed at Kansanshi mine in Solwezi which will be the biggest in the world.
He said the other challenges were the delays in approval of the Resettlement Action Plan which had lead to an extended period of transition for displaced communities.
Mr Pascall added that anxiety levels had been high and livelihood replacement projects had been very difficult due to inability for people to physically relocate.
He further added that the delays in approval of Joint Forestry Management (JFM) by the Forestry Department was leading to continued unsustainable practices of slash-and-burn agriculture and charcoal burning in Lualaba and Bushingwe Forest Protected Areas.
Dr Kaunda said the $2 billion mining investment project was something that Zambians should embrace as it would benefit Zambia and Africa at large.
He said he would relay the message to President Michael Sata who he had briefed about his tour of the mining project in Kalumbila before he had left for Lusaka.
"I will deliver the message to the President whom I had briefed of my coming and am sure he will act because these young people have come to help us develop our country and it's a wonderful project for all Zambians," Dr Kaunda said.
Dr Kaunda said the Sentinel Mine Project was a great investment for Zambia and Africa at large because of the many opportunities it was offering hence, assured FQM management that he would take the leasehold title concerns to President Sata.
He said the project would offer employment opportunities for the local people, bring about infrastructure development in the area which was previously a bush, skills training and technology transfer.
Dr Kaunda added that he had no doubts that the President would act on the leasehold of the title as the project was good.
Mr Pascall said once the mine was give a leasehold the planned town would accommodate 10,000 houses, services and a Multi Facility Economic Zone (MFEZ) among others.
He said the 65 per cent displaced households had family members employed by Kalumbila Mine Limited as the company's priority was to employ local people.
"Sentinel mine has so far employed 3,000 plus Zambian workers and 1,750 are from within the province. Our priority as a mine is to employ locals first.
"We have 250 farmers on trident conservation farming schemes and eventually the number will be expanded to 1,400 farmers," Mr Pascall said.
He noted that FQM has so far built 600 houses for its employees including a health centre, school and police station.
He said the completion of the construction of the new town was set for April 2014 and this would greatly stabilise the future for the Zambian families.
Stakeholder engagement officer Alex Mapapayi said FQM had plans to relocate 570 families under five traditional group leaders and those families which were staying within the infrastructure development area in order to give way for the construction of the new town.
Mr Mapapayi said some families had voluntarily moved and 90 per cent had been compensated as the mine was also giving cash compensation for the crops lost to the people.
He said the mine was also relocating public infrastructure including a school, three sport's fileds, one market, seven churches, 18 water sources, 52 families with business structures and 787 hectares of crops belonging to farmers.
"We are going to relocate public infrastructure including a school, three sport's fields, one market, seven churches, 18 water sources, 52 families with business structures and 787 hectares of crops belonging to farmers.
"Most families agreed to cash compensation and the mine has so far started giving them money at the same time provide a money management training sponsored by FQM so that they use there monies for the intended purposes," said mr Mapapayi
He said the company had also embarked on s ensitisation of HIV/AIDS awareness, counseling and peer education and so far 4000 plus people had voluntarily gone for HIV/AIDS testing.
Mr Mapapayi further explained that FQM had also embarked on malaria campaign with an ongoing malaria spray programmes.
He said over 60,000 mosquito nets had been distributed to Kalumbila residents and parasite prevalence monitoring was going on.