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Mine closure a welcome move after health fears

March 06 2012 - Christian Aid today welcomed the decision by the Zambia Environmental Management Authority to close with immediate effect Mopani Copper Mine’s Mufulira plant. 

The authority said acid mists produced in processing the copper were above human safety levels, and urgent improvements were needed before the mine, majority owned by London-listed commodities giant Glencore, could open again.

Alex Cobham, Christian Aid’s chief policy adviser, said the decision to close the mine was a victory for groups such as Zambia’s Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), which had long sought to draw attention to environmental problems in communities nearby.

‘Acid has even found its way into drinking water supplies,’ he said. ‘There now needs to be a full and thorough environmental audit. The mine needs a clean bill of health before it can reopen.

‘There must be full transparency about the environmental impact of the processes used, including an ongoing assessment to prevent back-sliding, just as there should be full transparency about Glencore’s tax arrangements.’

According to a leaked auditors’ report, Mopani Copper Mines Plc may have been using derivatives trades to shift profits out of Zambia in order to minimise its tax bill in the country.

Glencore has denied any wrong doing on both the tax and environmental front.

CTPD, a Christian Aid partner, recently threatened to launch legal action against the company if nothing was done about its claims that the ‘leaching’ process used in copper production was causing sulphuric acid to leak into water used by communities living and working near the mine.

It also complained of a high level of sulphur in the air, which it said was causing respiratory and skin problems.

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If you would like further information please contact Joe Ware on 0207 523 2418 or jware @christian-aid.org.

Notes to Editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.

2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty.  Details at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together inhumanitarian assistance and development.  Further details at http://www.actalliance.org

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5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk