The government has cancelled Collum Coal Mining’s licences and immediately taken over operations of the troubled and dangerous underground mine situated in Sinazeze district. Mines minister Yamfwa Mukanga said the mine, which is a hotbed for acrimonious relationships between local labourers and their Chinese masters, would be run by ZCCMInvestment Holdings in the interim as the government seeks an equity partner.
Mukanga said the mine, notorious for poor safety, health and environmental compliance record, mainly arising from employment of non- qualified personnel, was closed for among other reasons, failure to consistently provide employees with approved personal protective equipment and the use of unsafe mining methods.
The mine, according to Mukanga, fails to provide adequate sanitation facilities both on surface and underground and uses unapproved machinery at the mine contrary to regulations.
He also disclosed that Collum Coal, which does not pay Zambia mineral royalty, was also closed for failure to prevent recurrence of fatal mine accidents and to report accidents and other dangers occurrences.
Mukanga said Collum Coal mine managers, who keep mine explosives in their apartments, ignored to respond or provide remediation to the anomalies at the mine after the government’s default 60- day notice in August last year.
“In view of this, my ministry has, with immediate effect, cancelled all the three small- scale mining licences held by the Collum Coal Mining Industries Limited in Southern Province,” Mukanga told journalists yesterday. “Government has taken over the running of the mines and will continue to operate them until an investor is found.”
Mukanga said the move would not lead to any workers losing employment while all contractual obligation of Collum Mine would be fulfilled by ZCCM- IH.
“I therefore wish to appeal to all employees to remain calm as there will be no disruption of normal operations of the mine and there will be no job losses,” he said.
Mukanga said the government’s takeover of Collum Mine did not amount to nationalisation as the asset had been seized to safeguard workers’ and Zambia’s interest.
He said the Xu brothers would most likely not be compensated as they owed Zambia in excess of K5 billion ( rebased K5 million) in unremitted royalties.
“We believe in foreign investors and we are going to invite investors into our mining sector but as government, we support responsible investors in the mining industries whose operations are in line with the provisions of the law,” said Mukanga. “Government will not hesitate to cancel other noncompliant and inactive mining rights including prospecting licences where holders fail to remedy the default as directed by my ministry.”
Collum Coal Mine was owned by the Xu from Leping in Jiangxi Province and most of their Chinese workers were former miners from the same place.
Last August, Collum miners killed a Chinese supervisor and seriously wounded another in a pay dispute after the government raised minimum wages to K522,000 ( KR522) for maids and household servants, and to K1.1 million ( K1, 100 rebased) for shop workers without unions.
Wu, a 50- year- old manager at Collum Coal Mine, died after mine workers crushed him with a trolley as he tried to flee underground to escape a wage riot in one of the most dramatic clashes yet between Chinese managers and their local employees.
In 2010, the Zambian police charged two Chinese supervisors at the Collum coal mine with attempted murder following the shooting of 13 miners in a pay dispute.