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Rivers of Acid



I want to highlight one story I mentioned in my Dissent piece through a full blog post
. Mining companies operate internationally largely as bad actors, seeking maximum exploitation at the lowest cost to achieve the highest profit. When they can bribe officials or ignore local law, that makes it all the better. This is true of American, British, Australian, and especially Canadian mining companies. In nations like El Salvador, Romania, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico, citizens fight back but often unsuccessfully. The lack of good jobs makes that fight all the harder as even the low wages combined with the long-term ecological denigration are still worth it to lots of poor people. But often the damage is just too much for citizens to take. And that’s what is happening in Zambia:

The communities of Hippo Pool, Kakosa, Shimulala and Hellen say the Mushishima stream and the Kafue have become rivers of acid.

Hundreds of villagers who claim copper mining operations in the area have poisoned their water source and destroyed farmland are taking Zambia’s biggest copper mine, Vedanta Resources Plc, to court.

Leaked documents, that the BBC has seen, appear to show that Vedanta Resources – through its Zambian based Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) – have been spilling sulphuric acid and other toxic chemicals into the water sources.

A whistle-blower, who worked for 15 years with KCM, alleges that since Vedanta bought the mine in 2004, corners have been cut to save the costs of running operations.

“I see an environmental catastrophe coming our way,” said the source, who asked not to be named. “The lives of the people will be shattered.

“I decided to speak out because I could no longer be part of the destruction any more because the next generation will not have kind words for us,”

Konkola Copper Mine (KCM) denied in a statement to the BBC that it had failed to maintain critical equipment adequately or that heavy spillages and massive leakages occurred due to degraded equipment and leaking pumps and pipes.

KCM went on to say that it has spent $530m (£350m) to improve the environmental performance of its operations. This includes replacing slurry waste pipelines to the pollution control dam and putting in a new smelter, which it says captures 99.7% of sulphur emissions.

There’s little reason to believe the company here, as the reporter notes. The pollution is everywhere and it is sensual to the eyes, nose, and tongue.

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