MINING Community Engagement specialist Edward Lange says the Zambia Environmental Management Agency must stop Mopani Copper Mine's Mufulira West Heap Leaching Project.

Over 3,000 residents of Mufulira's Butondo township have resolved to take Mopani Copper Mines to court over the acid mists the company has continued to release from its Heap Leaching Mining Project in Mufulira, affecting their health.

In an interview, Lange said investigations must be launched to establish the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and the people who were behind its approval.

Lange said the Heap Leaching Project shouldn't have commenced if the company and environmental authorities knew that the leach pads would be harmful to residents that live near the plant.

He said immediate interventions must be taken by the government and Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) to protect the people and the environment from being damaged by heap leaching mining Mopani was executing in Butondo.

"My appeal to the PF government is to live by their word of protecting the environment and the people. Nkandu Luo, who is the minister in charge of the environment, even promised to close down the smelter in Mufulira which has been polluting the air for more than 40 years now. Go to the health department and check the rate of the chest-related diseases," Lange said.

He said the issue of compensation was not a solution to the problem, but the closure of the project until the correct decision was done to protect the lives of the people in Mufulira and Butondo in particular.

Lange said it was sad that the country had insufficient environmental lawyers that could protect the interests of the people in such situations, hence the need for the PF government to work towards strengthening the law on environmental protection.

"If the minerals are for Zambians, is it a curse or a blessing? Why should indigenous citizens pay such a big price? There are more issues to come out from Mopani. Let them respect the lives of the owners of the mine. Indiscriminate kind of mining should not be tolerated in this country," said Lange.

Residents of Mufulira's Butondo area on Thursday last week started moving children to other towns to protect them from the acid mists released by Mopani's Heap Leaching mine that is allegedly affecting their health.

Butondo Section E community spokesperson Agness Nkonde said the acid mists the residents were exposed to were unbearable.

Nkonde said parents feared that the acid mists might cause serious health complications, especially to children.

And ZEMA said it would not hesitate to close Mopani Copper Mine's Mufulira West Heap Leaching Mine if investigations being undertaken reveal that they had been releasing acid emissions indiscriminately without following the recommended exposure limit.

ZEMA Northern Region manager Patson Zulu said the authority is currently investigating and tests were being undertaken to ascertain the levels of acid mists Mopani was releasing to the environment, particularly to the affected residents of Butondo section E.