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Zambia Mine Collapse: Dozens Trapped Under Rubble

Government vows to rescue victims and improve mining sector

by Motoni Olodun

A pit collapse at a copper mine in Zambia has left more than 30 people trapped underground, according to a government minister. The incident happened on Friday in the city of Chingola, in the country’s Copperbelt region, about 400 kilometers north of the capital, Lusaka.

Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Jack Mwiimbu said in Parliament that rescue teams were at the site, trying to retrieve the victims. He did not give any details on the cause of the collapse or the condition of the trapped miners.

The minister said the collapse occurred at an open-pit mine but did not name the owner or operator of the mine. However, local media reported that the mine belonged to a Chinese company called Non-Ferrous China Africa (NFCA) Mining, which has been operating in Zambia since 1998.

NFCA Mining is one of the largest copper producers in Zambia, with an annual output of about 100,000 tons. The company has faced criticism in the past for its poor safety and environmental record, as well as its low wages and labor disputes with workers.

In 2010, two miners died and 28 others were injured in an explosion at an NFCA mine in Chambishi, another copperbelt town. In 2015, the company was fined $8,000 for polluting a stream that supplies water to local communities. In 2019, hundreds of workers staged a strike over delayed salary payments and poor working conditions.

The pit collapse in Chingola is the latest in a series of mining accidents that have plagued Zambia, Africa’s second-largest copper producer after the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2015, four miners died after a fire broke out at a mine owned by Mopani Copper Mines, a subsidiary of Glencore. In 2019, 10 people were killed in a mine dump collapse in Kitwe, another Copperbelt city.

The mining sector is vital for Zambia’s economy, accounting for more than 70% of its export earnings and 10% of its gross domestic product. However, the industry has also faced challenges such as low copper prices, high production costs, unstable tax regimes, and power shortages.

The new government of President Hakainde Hichilema, who took office in August 2021, has pledged to revive the mining industry and increase copper production to three million tons per year by 2031. The government has also introduced incentives for investors, such as reducing the royalty rate for mines and streamlining the licensing process.

The government has also expressed its commitment to improving the safety and welfare of the miners, as well as protecting the environment from mining pollution. The minister said the government would investigate the cause of the pit collapse in Chingola and hold those responsible accountable.

The minister also appealed to the public to refrain from engaging in illegal mining activities, which he said posed a risk to their lives and the environment. He said the government would work with the mining companies and the communities to ensure that mining was done responsibly and sustainably.

Source: AP News


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