Barrick’s Lumwana mine has budgeted nearly $3 million in 2012 to support sustainable development initiatives in communities near the Zambia-based mine. That’s up from $2.7 million a year earlier.
Commissioned in 2009, Lumwana is located in Zambia’s North-Western province, 65 kilometers west of the provincial capital of Solwezi. Lumwana produced 159 million pounds of copper in 2011 and is expected to produce 155-165 million pounds this year.
The Agri-Food Innovators (AFI) program is one of many community development initiatives funded by Lumwana. The program, which launched in 2008, helps local farmers learn different irrigation technologies and sustainable farming methods. It also funds research aimed at introducing high value crops to the region. “Subsistence farming is a way of life and, together with mining, forms the basis of the economy around Lumwana,” says Brenda Liswaniso, Sustainability Manager at Lumwana. “We thought it was very important to support the people in this sector.”
The AFI program also supports a local micro-financing business, which has made it easier for farmers to fund their businesses. “Because they are considered a high risk for nonpayment, it is difficult for small-scale farmers to go to a regular bank and secure a loan,” Liswaniso says.
Barrick provided $50,000 towards the micro-finance initiative, and CETZAM Financial Services, the company that runs the operation, is providing up to $200,000 worth of loans in local communities. Loan repayment rates are above 90 percent, well above the repayment rate for similar programs in Zambia, Liswaniso says.
In 2011, the AFI program engaged the government-run Mutanda Agricultural Research Institute to help introduce new crops to the area. Barrick contributed $100,000 to the initiative. To date, more than 80 farmers have participated in testing and production of high value crops, such as rice, wheat, soybeans, mangoes and Irish potatoes.
Lewis Nsangabukila is one of those farmers. Last year, he began shifting production from corn (maize) to rice. So far, he has generated $1,910 from his rice crop, about double what he would have earned from corn. He plans to convert his entire farm to rice production and learn new farming practices to improved crop yields. “I am never going back to maize,” he says.
Another major initiative supported by the mine is the Lumwana Development Trust Fund. The trust supports infrastructure projects identified by a committee consisting of local traditional leaders, government and mine management, though Barrick does not vote on which projects will go forward. The mine contributes 75 percent towards the cost of projects while local communities contribute 25 percent. This year, Lumwana is budgeting $770,000 for the trust, up from $580,000 in 2011.
In late August, Barrick formally unveiled 22 projects supported by the Trust Fund. The projects, some of which took years to build, are spread across several local communities. They include schools, staff houses, rural health centers and several production centers that provide employment opportunities to women. At one of the production centers, for instance, women produce bags used by Lumwana’s geological department to collect ore samples. All told, Barrick contributed about $1.4 million to help build the 22 projects.
“Barrick Lumwana is determined to collaborate with host communities to foster a stable, healthy and safe environment in which to live and work, and to promote sustainable socioeconomic development,” says Wayne Schiller, Acting Managing Director of the Lumwana Mining Company, a Barrick subsidiary that oversees operations at the Lumwana mine.
Lumwana recently launched another program to support women in partnership with a local NGO called YAPYA, (Youth Investment Trust of Zambia). Under the initiative, 60 women in the nearby town of Mutanda have been provided with dairy cows to supply nutritious milk to local residents. The milk is stored at a milk collection center, whose construction was funded by Barrick with a $90,000 donation. The women use income earned from milk production to pay for their cows and, ideally, generate enough revenue to purchase additional cows. The women receive training in how to care for their animals and manage their finances. They are also provided with a bicycle to transport the milk to the collection center. “From the beginning, we have focused on strengthening women’s participation in the local economy to help alleviate poverty,” Liswaniso says.