Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema fired a government minister on Wednesday for illegally mining sugilite, a newly discovered precious mineral in the country.
Derrick Chilundika was the minister of Luapula Province, a mineral rich region bordering Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
While a statement from the State House in the capital Lusaka did not provide any reason for his dismissal, a police statement that immediately followed said Chilundika had been carrying out mining activities without a license.
“Police in Lusaka have arrested Derricky Chilundika, former Luapula Province Minister, for carrying out mining activities without a license, contrary to Section 12(1)(3) of the Mines and Minerals Act Number 11 of 2015. It is alleged that the suspect, while acting together with others, did mine 23 tons of sugilite mineral ore without a license,” said Police Deputy Spokesman Danny Mwale in a statement.
He said the suspect was in police custody and waiting to be formally charged.
Zambia, predominantly a copper producing hub, has lately discovered that it is a belt for other minerals such as manganese, gold and sugilite.
The minerals have, however, been prone to illegal mining, with hotspots being Luapula Province, Eastern Province, Muchinga Province, Central Province and North-Western Province.
Prior to the sacking of Chilundika, Hichilema had also dismissed several subordinate officers from the region connected with the sugilite fiasco, which has been brewing since early 2023.
Hichilema also fired Mooya Lumamba, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, in March this year.
Mwale later released a statement saying that police have arrested and charged Muhammed Ashim and Muhammed Munsul, both Afghan nationals, for the offence of mining without a license. The two are directors of Katros Mining Limited.
Police investigations revealed that the suspects were mining manganese at the mine using an expired artisanal mining license and the manganese is not prescribed in the license.
They have been released on a police bond pending their court appearance.