MOPANI Copper Mine's Mufulira West Heap Leaching Mine will remain closed until the company puts in place measures to end pollution as recommended by ZEMA.

And Vice-President Guy Scott has directed the Ministry of Health to dispatch a team of medical personnel to Mufulira to ascertain whether the health of the over 8,000 Butondo Township residents were affected by the acid emissions produced by Mopani's heap leach mine.

The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) closed Mopani's Heap Leaching Mine three weeks ago following complaints of massive pollution by the residents of Butondo through the acid mists that had allegedly affected people's health.

According to resolutions of the meeting which was chaired by Vice-President Scott aimed at addressing issues of massive pollution surrounding the closure of the Heap leaching Mine, Mopani Copper Mines had been given eight benchmarks, of which three critical ones aimed at curbing the emissions and protecting the environment must be met before the plant is reopened.

Kankoyo PF member of parliament Levy Chabala who attended the meeting with several stakeholders said Mopani Copper Mines would only be able to reopen the mine by the end of April once it meets the demands of ZEMA, the government and the residents.

Chabala said Mopani had been asked to erect acid mists barriers to minimise downwind effects on Butondo's section E area and the police camp.

"We need Mopani to do the right thing and that's why on the eight benchmarks there are recommended measures such as putting up an interlock system, erecting fences and that they should only use dripping methods of irrigation of acid on their heap leaching mine," he said.

Chabala said Mopani was told to put in measures to reduce noise pollution from the Crusher Plant, prepare a comprehensive environmental and social management plan for the Heap Leach Mine which should be submitted to ZEMA for approval.

And the Southern Africa Resource Watch which was represented at the meeting by campaign officer Edward Lange said Vice-President Scott had indicated that demands of relocation by the Butondo households which were close to the plant would only be considered once the government sends a team of medical personnel to examine whether the acid mists had affected their health.

Lange said the organisation was happy that the government had started monitoring the operations of the mine investors like Mopani, adding that mining should not be done at the expense of people's lives and the environment.

"The meeting was a demonstration to us that government has now started taking things seriously with these investors. Mopani should not be above the law and it should attach great importance to maters of environment and health," he said.

Lange said his organisation hoped that the meeting with Vice-President Scott would mark the beginning of dialogue between Mopani and the residents on matters that affect both parties.

Mopani Copper Mines chief executive officer Danny Callow indicated that the company was losing K525 million a day following the closure of the mine by ZEMA and that the situation had also attracted 310 potential job losses.