Mwangala Mwangala of class 7B, 11 years old, in clean school uniform, steps forward in front of all his teachers, clears his throat, and stands in front of the strange mzungu (white) visitors from England. ‘Mwaisenipo Mukwai!’ he reads in a loud clear voice. ‘Welcome home, away from home!’
Indeed, these days, for me, and many of our group, Mufulira does feel like home.
We are here at Mine Primary School in Kantanshi, a school in one of the two communities – the other being Kankoyo – closest to the copper mine complex and smelter.
Built by the British in the 1930’s, nationalised after independence in 1964 as Zambian Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), and today the jewel in the crown of Glencore’s Zambian copper interests, Mufulira is undergoing something of a renaissance.
With predictions that electric vehicles will need up to 80 kgs of copper per vehicle in the battery pack, wiring loom, electric motor and power inverters (compared to about 20-30 kgs in a petrol engine car today), it is easy to see how important copper is to the world.
I have been travelling here for the last 10 years. Others in our group have done so for over 20. These days, following our advocacy to capture sulphur emissions from smelting copper sulphide ores, relations with Glencore are frank and cordial. While our group of 14 from UK spends the week in all parts of the community, one day is given over, courtesy of Glencore/Mopani, to a mine tour. Some of the group elect to go underground, while others tour the surface. I chose the surface this time as I had not seen the training school before, equipped to a standard that any UK educational institution would be proud of. We see simulators to give trainee miners experience of how to operate underground mining equipment, such as CAT loaders, drilling equipment, explosives; how to react to fires and rock falls, all without leaving the surface. Fittingly, the facility is on the site of the old Western Extension of Mufulira Copper Mines opened by Sir Ronald Prain on 31st May 1962.
Six months earlier, past and present was brought together physically when Mopani broke through to the old workings from the new deep shaft whose winding gear will descend at the rate of 18 metres per second down to 2000 metres. Once in full operation, instead of 7 km and 13 movements for ore to reach the surface, 30mt loads of 200mm sized Cu 2% ore will reach the surface by this direct route every few minutes. It is the kind of investment that will make Mufulira central to Glencore’s Zambian operations for the next 35 years and gives employment and hope to all in the community.
Back at Mine Primary, our group is here to see the building of a 600 capacity school hall paid for by donations from one MMTA member company. As luck would have it, it is also the day that the British Council’s country director, David Pardoe, is in attendance. It was via a tiny British Council donation of pencils, notebooks and T-shirts for a climate change group at Mine Primary School in 2008 that ultimately the issue of sulphur pollution was brought to the public’s attention. The gas collection system was commissioned in 2014 and today, the school is re-building in air that is fresher and cleaner than it has been for decades. With further individual MMTA member donations, this school now also has a borehole, tank storage, piping, and thus running water, allowing children to study rather than spend half a day per week fetching water from a standpipe so that the latrines could be flushed. Now children can even take home fresh water for cooking in the evening. When the hall is finally built, the idea is that it will be let out at weekends for weddings and cultural events in order to generate income to be ploughed back into the school for books and teaching aids.
Joint class by Skype between Mine Primary School and Bruton Primary in Somerset
We are here to see many things, including the delivery of an Ultrasound machine, almost a quarter of a ton in weight and worth £80,000 new, but obtained as surplus to requirements at a fraction of the cost from Spire South Bank private hospital in Worcester UK. Sourced by Steve Curtis of Intro Zambia, and now reconditioned, it was about to arrive at Kamuchanga District Hospital where it will further aid in the diagnosis of a wide range of soft tissue and vascular conditions, and be further assisted by scenographers sent out from the UK to train local staff.
Ultrasound in use at Kamuchanga Hospital
Another purpose of the visit is to see the site of the new Dry Port which will ultimately remove UN 1830 Hazmat acid trucks from the streets of Mufulira which had been parked on the public highway close to people’s homes. We are taken to see the area on Mopani owned land which will have capacity to keep all drivers and trucks on compound, with clean latrines, showers, guest rooms, truck repair facilities and authorized local vendors, as well as a green area and football pitch. It is hoped that this will be complete by early 2019 and at the same time an access road will be approved to further remove all trucks from the centre of town.
Each year for the last 20 plus years groups have gone out to Mufulira c/o Intro Zambia amongst others. There is no formula, people go out from pure curiosity and also as part of links between schools and Universities and, in our case, the industrial/charitable link with the MMTA. Our group has diverse interests. One of our number, Roger, was a former Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Bristol University. In his 70’s, he decided that on this trip he wanted to work with blind and albino children at Mano School, and was busy showing children how to make planes and load-bearing structures out of paper! Then there was Janie, a Higher Learning Teaching Assistant, and Sarah, a teacher, both from Bruton Primary School in the UK. Another member was Jill Waters, a physio with specialism in rehab and Continual Professional Development, Pat who runs the Teacher Training programme at Bath Spa University working with the Mufulira Teacher Training School, Emily, Emma and Candi from Wincanton Primary, all meeting their counterparts at their twinned school. Angela, a Rotarian and former nurse, representing her local Rotary Club in its links with Mutundu Clinic, Rodger, an industrial electrician, and his wife Sabine interested simply to travel to Mufulira for the first time. All of us led by Steve Curtis and Dr Laura Tilling who have been travelling here for over two decades.
In a few days we all go our separate ways, some to schools, others to clinics and hospitals, to hear from our Zambian colleagues about the issues in their community. In so short a space, it is not possible to relate everything that goes on in just a single trip, let alone do justice to the layers of twinning, reciprocity and friendships that have enriched everyone on both sides. For MMTA members, all too familiar with the shiny end of our metal trade, all I can say is that you will never trade a piece of metal in quite the same way again if you decide to join one of our groups in future years. Perhaps the highlight of the trip this year for me, was an event I was not even present for but for which I have a photo. Thanks to an MMTA micro-grant, administered via Cary Mufulira Community Partnership Trust (CMCPT), a Skype link was set up between Mine Primary and their counterpart school in Bruton in Somerset, with aid of a TP-Link MIFI dongle. The teacher in UK took his iPad round the school for a tour and together, for a few moments, both schools were truly sharing one world, with children of different cultures, asking questions, finding out about each other, and learning together. The hope is that via this means classes in Mufulira and Somerset will share projects on issues common to us all – climate change and recycling being two. The slogan is ‘One world, One people’, and for a few moments it almost seemed true.
As some of you will have read or heard, MMTA has now formalised our links with Mufulira into a charity: ‘Friends of Mufulira’ (Charity no. 1176062) whose purpose is the advancement of educational and medical needs in Mufulira. Under our programme we are already funding a minimum of two NHS Electives who visit Ronald Ross General Hospital (RRGR). This year the electives are Laura-Jayne Stenhouse and Elizabeth Wardle of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine who will travel to Mufulira in July. We wish them well and look forward to hearing from them after their return.
If you would be interested to join a group going to Mufulira in 2019 or wish to travel at any other time, please contact Anthony Lipmann on + 44 (0) 208 487 0236 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Maria Cox or Freya Kerwin at email@example.com or freya @mmta.co.uk
Copper cathode at the Mopani refinery
Part of the group by the winding gear about to revolutionise mining in Mufulira.
Members of the IntroZambia group at the District Commissioner’s office arranging for the safe acceptance, hand over, and delivery of an Ultrasound Machine to Kamuchanga Hospital.