Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
THE ENVIRONMENTAL LEGACY OF LEAD MINING IN KABWE, ZAMBIA
The problems associated with heavy metal contamination are widespread especially in developing countries that are heavily dependent on mining. Zambia is such a country, with its economy almost entirely supported by exports from the mining industry. The most adversely affected (with respect to heavy metal contamination) mining town in Zambia is Kabwe, which once boasted a very productive lead, zinc and cadmium mine. Unfortunately, the mine stopped operating in 1994 after operating for over 90 years without any environmental regulations limiting effluent emissions into the environment. As a result the town is currently considered to be among the top 10 worst polluted places in world. The main contaminant of concern is lead. Remediation efforts by various stakeholders such as the Copperbelt Environmental Project (CEP) have been initiated. This paper reviews the extent of the lead contamination and its impact on the local community in Kabwe. It also assesses the effectiveness of the remediation projects that were carried out between 2006 and 2011 through the CEP. In June 2013, three sites around the mine were sampled for lead levels in soils and plants. Locally grown vegetables were also acquired and tested for lead contamination. All samples tested positive for severe lead contamination, which calls for a more aggressive approach in reducing lead exposure. A field assessment of airborne exposure also revealed that earlier efforts to limit this exposure pathway have not been very effective. Recommendations for limiting exposure include both contaminant removal and community education.