Our MMTA Charity, Friends of Mufulira (FOM), arises out of The Minor Metals Trade Association’s wish to publicly recognize the communities in developing countries upon which we all depend for the supply of metals.
Mufulira, on the copperbelt in Zambia, offered itself via the personal links that some members of the MMTA had with this town. Other regions and places could have been chosen, but in Mufulira we were able to build on links already established in the mind of our community and it was also felt that concentrating resources on one place would have the greatest beneficial impact. Mufulira is therefore a symbol for all mining towns that lie at the start of the long supply chain that brings metals out of the ground to start their long journey towards their final and, sometimes astonishing, applications.
In Mufulira the metal with which this town is synonymous, is copper. Discovered by the British in the 1890s, specifically identified in Mufulira in the 1920s, the smelter was commissioned in the early 1930s. The arc of Mufulira’s history thus encompasses colonialism and empire at is beginning, Zambian independence and nationalisation of the copper industry after 1964, and privatisation in 2000. In all that period emissions of sulphur from the smelter were not captured until the installation of Glencore’s gas collection system launched in 2014. It is fair to say that the links and advocacy of the MMTA based on knowledge, good will and friendships within the Mufulira community, assisted this process. Tribute also needs to be paid to Glencore, the owner of the Mopanin mine and smelter complex, for working with the MMTA to bring cleaner air to the people of Mufulira, with all the benefits and improvements to health that pertain.
From this focus and these links have emerged excellent communication between the local community in Mufulira and members of our Association. Our Association magazine, The Crucible, has carried many reports and updates over the last 10 years about the MMTAs work in the community to date, and so too has our Annual Review seen by all attendees to our conferences. Meantime, our website contains information, and speakers at all our public events also update our members as to what is happening with our charitable link. Each year visits from MMTA members to Mufulira take place which further enhance our ties.
The MMTA takes pride in working together with the two founders of Intro Zambia, Dr Laura Tilling and Steve Curtis, who did so much to pave the way for the work the MMTA now does. Their immense knowledge of Zambia, and Mufulira specifically, as well as their continued guidance on visits, has been invaluable. Further thanks should also go to Dr Robin Gleek, a GP from Chester, who discovered the MMTA links a few years ago, and contacted us because he wanted to visit Mufulira again where he had travelled as a young elective doctor in the 1970s.
The Friends of Mufulira Charity was thus formed to give structure and impetus to the work that was already naturally evolving. By means of the charity we wanted to ensure that charitable monies donated by members would be transparently segregated and managed outside MMTA general funds. Secondly, it assisted us to better define our charitable goals, which are, via objects or actions, to promote the education and health of people in the Mufulira community.
Prior the charity’s formation, thanks to the suggestions and hard work of Dr Robin Gleek, some members got together to endow a programme to send two to three NHS trainee doctors on their electives to Ronald Ross General Hosptial in Mufulira – as he himself had once done all those years ago. With the bursary offered by the MMTA we have had a wide range of excellent applicants each year whose wish is to experience medicine in a developing country. It is a link from which both sides continue to prosper and we hope in future years to build on this programme with some reciprocity, so that Zambian doctors or nurses can travel to the UK for study also. Aside from this, links with schools in the region are, thanks to the local Somerset charity Cary Mufulira Community Partnerhsip Trust extremely wide, allowing us to received direct information about concerns from the community. In 2017 we were informed of a serious problem caused by an excess of sulphuric acid trucks parked on the public highway near people’s home. This resulted in further advocacy from the MMTA to the mine’s owners, Glencore, with the result that the company is now building a state of the art dry port stationing trucks far away from local people, thus reducing risks to health from a hazardous material and concomitant crime, disease and prostition stemming from large numbers of migrant truck drivers idle and waiting for cargoes.
So, in summary, we are a charity whose purpose relates directly to the trade with which we are involved and which should also inform the way that our members operate in other parts of the world. Our Trustees include the Chairman of the MMTA, other members with an interest in Zambia, Dr Robin Gleek and Dr Laura Tilling as mentioned above.