Zambia shuts polluting Glencore copper plant

A security guard walks past a shipment of copper in Valparaiso city, about 121 km (75 miles) northwest of Santiago, June 29, 2009. REUTERS/Eliseo Fernandez

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia has closed a copper treatment plant belonging to Glencore International’s Mopani Copper Mines for pollution violations, the state environmental agency said on Monday.

Mopani Copper Mines said in a statement it was surprised at the action by the environmental agency and may be forced to lay off staff following the closure.

“Every day of suspension is costing the company in the region of 525 million kwachaand unfortunately calls into question whether Mopani can continue to support 310 jobs created by the heap leach project,” it said.

Zambia environmental management agency spokeswoman Chama Mwansa told Reuters Mopani was ordered to shut down its Mufulira heap leaching plant on Thursday due to excessive emissions of the pollutant acid mist.

The agency’s inspection of the plant revealed that there was no acid mist or vapour barrier to minimise effects on more than 3,000 local residents, Mwansa said.

“Statistics show an increase in the number of cases of pulmonary, throat, nose and ear ailments,” she said.

Mopani would only be allowed to open the plant after it erected acid mist barriers and effective equipment to control the pollution, she said.

The agency also ordered Mopani to prepare a comprehensive environmental and social management plan for the heap leaching process and submitt it for approval, Mwansa said.