Message Mar 30 Juil 2013 16:34

Zambia: Seized Coal Mine Has Trouble Finding Buyer

Miners at Collum Coal Mine in Sinazeze have said they have little hope in government finding a buyer for the troubled mine after it was expropriated from Chinese Investors recently.

Some miners interviewed said they neither missed their abusive Chinese managers nor do they have hope in the Patrotic Front (PF) government to find a suitable investor to take over operations at the mine because the PF had become famous for deception and refusing to fulfill promises.

Maxwell Hambote who operates from shaft three said it was right for the government to take over Collum Mine, but the PF government had not shown any seriousness in correcting the wrongs that characterized the mine under the Chinese.

He said it had become apparent that the PF was using the plight of miners at Collum Coal Mine to perpetuate politics because there were no signs that matters would improve.

Hambote said miners at Collum Coal Mine were worried that they were on half salaries for a long time without the government showing any real changes to the operations.

"We are on half salary and there is no production. The government did well the repossess the mine but we are worried that things will even become worse," he said.

Recently, the government repossessed Collum Coal from Chinese investors who had become infamous for widespread human rights abuses and poor salaries and bad working conditions.

The mine has also been the scene of violent incidents widely reported in the media. Following confusion over a new policy to raise the minimum wage, a Chinese Supervisor was killed by irate Zambian workers at Collum Coal Mine during a protest. Two years earlier, a Chinese supervisor fired live bullets at Zambian miners during labour unrest.

These events and the continued allegations of poor treatment of Zambian miners that forced the PF government to repossess the mine, but the workers are now saying the government was not serious about addressing the underlying problems to make the mine productive again.

Another miner interviewed by Zambia Reports, Gift Hamakampa, said the PF was "only concerned about its political fortunes" instead of developing industries such as Collum Coal Mine.

He said Collum Coal Mine, which was placed under the Consolidated Copper Mine, was not being rehabilitated in order to maintain its safety in readiness for take over by another investor.

"Recently, there was a fire in one of the shafts and that shows the poor state of the mine. There is no production but how do they expect someone to come and buy a mine that is in such a state," he said.

And Vincent Malambo said miners at Collum Coal Mine did not miss their Chinese managers because they were abuse to Zambian workers. He said the Chinese supervisors were corrupt and only cared for their own welfares.

Malambo said the problems at Collum Coal Mine were compounded by local councilors, the police and other government leaders whom he accused of being corrupt because they received bribes from the Chinese.

"The Chinese always told us that they had money and the police would not do anything to them. We found this to be true because the police never acted each time we reported a beating or any other any physical form of abuse from the Chinese. It is because of such abuse that we do not miss the Chinese," he said.

Malambo said the corruption at the mine had continued to escalate and miners were losing patience because of the uncertainty surrounding the matter.