By Charles Mafa
Investigations into the Ministry of Mines has revealed an entrenched and longstanding practice of irregular issuance of mining licences pointing to a serious disregard of the law by senior officials. In one case, the Director of Mines is accused of signing a licence backdated to the time when he was not director and using the law which was not in place at the time.
Mooya Lumamba who was not director in 2006 is alleged to have signed mining licence number 7361-hq-lml belonging to Chilanga Cement Limited, using the Mines and Minerals Development Act No. 7 of 2008 which was not in existence in 2006.
Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) has since written to the ministry asking for an explanation why its director issued the “fraudulent licence” claiming he was director in 2006 when he was not.
Executive Director, Goodwell Lungu said his organisation has received documentation from officials within the ministry who have raised concern that in 2006 the director was Gerhard Kangamba and not Lumamba. He said his organization is worried that “this may be an abuse of office and force fraudulent presentation of documents by a public officer for motives that may be well known by Mr. Lumamba”.
Irregular issuance of mining licences is not new. But a review of leaked documents by this writer raises questions about tactics and about the ethics of allowing this freewheeling practice of disregarding the law to continue.
In February last year, Scirocco wrote to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) complaining about ministry officials and Lafarge Cement. The company was seeking among other things, to know “if they (Lafarge) had this LML 7631 licence since 2006, why was it reissued in 2014 again? And why were they paying the area charges for 8 years in 2014 and not yearly as per Mines Act?”
“I wish to state that the Commission did receive a complaint regarding the above mentioned matter,” said Timothy Moono, the ACC Public Relations Manager in response to a query. “However, the Commission discovered that the said matter was already before the courts of law and continued investigations regarding the same would have been sub-judice since the matters complained about were essentially the same.”
“We’re wondering why the ACC refused to take up the matter,” said Scirocco Managing Director, Moustafa Saadi. He said the matter they brought up against Lumamba is of a criminal nature and what is in court is a civil case.
Leaked documents detail allegations of how Lumamba issued another licence No 8275-HQ-SML to Scirocco Enterprise Limited, trading as Oriental Quarries for small-scale mining of limestone deposit on the same piece of land.
The documents point to “illegalities which Lumamba had promised to correct when TIZ convened a meeting in his office”. There are also cases of missing files for applicants of mining licences and systematic fraud in the awarding of some mining licences at the Ministry of Mines.
A broadly written mining law allows for loss of mining rights on a piece of land whose licence has not been renewed and the owner not having developed the area over a period of three years. In the case of Chilanga, they were rightful owners of the area in question but allegedly defaulted on their licence when they stopped renewing it in 2007.
According to documents seen by this writer, in 2010, three years after the expiry of the licence for Chilanga, the Registrar of Mining Rights wrote to Chilanga informing them that the coordinates of the area for 7361-HQ-SML were converted to comply with the 2008 Mines and Minerals Development Act and that it had expired.
Lumamba would not be reached for a comment as he did not pick or return three missed calls on his mobile phone.
Scrirocco was granted small scale mining rights in 2005. In 2010, the cadastre system was going through new numbering process and their new number became sml 8275, the same year the company paid for renewal for the 10-year period which was granted in 2011.
The company then applied to extend the licence area and their alteration application was rejected on the grounds the area belonged to Dangote Quarries Limited. After Scirocco found out that Dangote had not renewed its licence, an appeal was launched, and in 2012 the company was given the new licence.
The land in question is situated some 20 kilometers west of Lafarge Cement plant, and separated by farms in between. In order to access the limestone, Scirocco had entered into an agreement with a farmer who owns the land and negotiations to purchase the farm had started.
An independent source familiar with the dispute says the whole issue is laced with corruption and points to officials within the ministry who he said created the whole problem. He said in 2007, the area was first under Chilanga, but as years went by, Scirocco were said to have obtained prospecting licence for the same area.
An official at Scirocco has complained that the dispute over the land in question threatens his company’s future and might throw the more than 800 employees out of work. He said the company relies on limestone for its cement production which has almost depleted at its old site.
In early 2015, Scirocco entered into an agreement with a Chinese company to put up a 2,500 ton-per-day cement plant and everything was in place to proceed. The agreement was made publicly and it was after the announcement that Lafarge went to court to claim the licence.
“We believe that Lafarge want to use all means in order to block our project,” said one official from Scirocco. “They’re willing to use legal and fraudulent means to frustrate our intentions and block competition.”
In a leaked letter to Lumamba, Saadi complained that “Larfage is utilising the ministry and its staff to establish facts on the ground to prove that the licence belongs to them and we believe the means utilised are illegal”.
Saadi said on 20 July 2014, Larfage “called our neighbour and requested permission for ministry staff to come onto his land on Sunday to confirm beacons for the licence”.
“Permission was denied but they (ministry staff) showed (up) on the following day and forced their way onto our farm without our permission and put some beacons in,” read the letter in part.
Saadi called the action “illegal and abuse of authority”. He said the way the ministry is being used by Larfage “is very suspicious and leads us to believe that this matter needs to be reported to the law enforcement authority”.
However, it is the manner in which licence No. 7361-HQ-SML belonging to Chilanga was reinstated into the system that raises questions.
In July 2014, Scirocco conducted a search at the Ministry of Mines to establish existence of licence number 7361-HQ-LML held by Larfage. After the search, a report was compiled and submitted to the Minister of Mines with copies to the deputy and other senior officers, including Lumamba.
Saadi said the minister agreed to hear their case in the presence of Lumamba and the head of Cadastre. On the day for the meeting, the team from Scirocco went to the minister’s office and waited for the other party to arrive, only to be told Lumamba and the head Cadastre had travelled and did not inform the minister. The two were instead represented by their deputies.
Another leaked letter written by Billy Chewe, the Chief Mining Engineer, on behalf of Lumamba to Lafarge managing director dated 15th September 2014 upheld an appeal by Scirocco to have their licence (8275-HQ-SML) altered. In it, it said, “there is no evidence of your company (Larfage) applying for the renewal of licence No. 7361-HQ-SML when it expired in 2007”.
“There is no evidence of your company undertaking a full EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) to warrant the grant of Large Scale Mining Licence (7361-HQ-LML),” said the letter. “There has not been any evidence of your company undertaking any mining operations on the site as required by Section 59(a) of the 2008 Mines and Minerals Development Act.”
The section of the law states that a holder of a small scale mining licence shall – develop the mining area and commence and carry on mining operations, with due diligence and in accordance with the programme of mining operations.
In the same letter from the Ministry, it was confirmed that “your (Lafarge) licence (7361-HQ-LML) has not been in good standing and consequently it has been withdrawn forthwith and the shape alternation of licence No. 8275-HQ-SML is supported and has been effected in the Flexi Cadastre System”.
But on 6 October 2014, Lafarge wrote to the ministry, appealing against the decision of the director of mines to withdraw their mining licence. Emmanuel Regaux, the CEO and Managing Director of Lafarge, pointed out that the original licence for Dream Hill was granted to Lafarge Zambia Plc (formerly Chilanga Cement) for fifteen years in 1994 under mining licence No. BL 35.
“In 1998, the licence was renewed for a further term of 9 years under mining licence number SML 30,” he said. “In 2006, SML 30 was, along with our other SMLs in Chilanga, converted into large scale mining licence No. LML 52 for 25 years.”
Lafarge, through its legal officer did not want to comment on the matter saying “the full story is in the court record”.
A review of the general invoice which is in the hands of TIZ, show that Chilanga Cement paid over K 28,000 in 2014 to cover a period from 2007 to 2014.
TIZ, for its part, wants, “clarification and necessary action on this matter will be most welcome as we encourage all government employees to avoid any form of abuse of office through fraudulent misrepresentation of the law and documentation”.