From: Reuters
Published January 8, 2008 01:08 PM

Zambia cites environment in mine suspension

By Shapi Shacinda

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia's second largest copper and cobalt producer has had a new mining project suspended after the government decided it failed to meet environmental standards, an official said on Tuesday.

Edward Zulu, the director of the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ), said a leach plant project at Mopani Copper Mines (MCM), a joint venture of Swiss firm Glencore International AG and Canada's First Quantum Minerals, had been suspended.

"We did write to Mopani yesterday telling them to suspend the leach (plant) project until they implement what is in the environmental impact assessment report," Zulu said on state television.

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The ban comes only days after the government summoned Mopani officials to explain what authorities described as acid contamination in drinking water pumped to residents in a mining area.

Government officials in the mineral-rich Copper Belt province said Mopani had been negligent and had caused the water contamination. They also ordered further investigations into how the water got polluted.

Dozens of residents in Mufurila, 450 km (281 miles) north of Lusaka, were treated at a local hospital for vomiting and diarrhea last week after they drank water suspected to have been polluted with acid.

Mopani is one of several copper and cobalt mines carrying out infrastructure expansions and upgrades to boost copper production, which is Zambia's economic lifeblood.

The vast copper mines are a major employer in this southern African country of 12 million people.

(Editing by Paul Simao and Chris Johnson)

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