By Sandra Lombe in Livingstone
Wed 20 Oct. 2010, 04:00 CAT
CHINESE-RUN Collum Coal Mine has been given up to October 30 this year to improve the workers’ conditions of service. Southern Province minister Elijah Muchima described the plight of the workers as sad, saying they were subjected to slave wages and worked under hazardous conditions. Mushima explained that the workers at the mine earned between K57,000 and K500,000 per month.
[OK. That is $100,- per month max. So this is what we are supposed to give up the mines for? 'Jobs' of hard physical labour, that pay $3,33 PER DAY? This is what the MMD calls 'development'? I hope that the free trade/privatisation SCAM is clear for all to see now. The mines must return to Zambian hands. It matters not 'how well they are run' when the country or the people do not benefit. And to say that 'they bring jobs' is an insult to every Zambian. There is more money in agriculture than these slave wages. - MrK]
“The provincial administration summoned administrators for shaft one, two and six to discuss the happenings of the Collum mine in Sinazongwe district. This mine has been a source of concern. My predecessors complained about the mine and when I was at local government I complained. They are giving slave salaries to Zambians. The law is very clear on labour conditions,” Muchima said.
“Underground miners get K22,000 per day while those upper get K20,000. They get K2,000 as lunch allowance. They used to provide food but it was fit for pigs, not human beings. What can one buy from K2,000? You can’t survive on Coca-Cola when you are doing a hard job.
And this is a mine, which has been in existence for the past nine years. Only one administrator, Rui came. We had a good meeting with him and we have expressed our disappointment. As government, we have to make the situation conducive but with this mine, it’s different.”
Muchima disclosed that workers at the mine had no contracts, conditions of service and no one had a permanent job.
He said the mine management seemed to be “naughty” but no one would be protected in the event that they committed a crime.
“Contrary to what people are saying that the Chinese are above the law, no one will be protected when they commit a crime. We are not promoting anarchy,” he said. “Zambians are being treated as animals.”
Muchima said the mine administrators complained about the lack of a market for coal but he wondered why they could not reduce the number of workers so that they could remunerate them well.
He said the government would resolve the problems at the mine because they wanted to protect the interests of Zambians.
Muchima said the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ) and ministries of health, labour, local government and mines were involved in the matter to ensure that the mine was safe.
Muchima said the discharge of water from the mine contaminated a nearby stream and there were no toilets underground.
“On 1st November 2010 we want to see that they have complied with the conditions of service and others. On 2nd November we will visit the mine. Nobody should be fired due to the protest,” he said.
Muchima said the Chinese embassy had also directed the
managers at the mine to improve the workers’ conditions of service.
In 2006, then Southern Province minister Alice Simango openly wept after she toured Collum Coal Mine and saw the workers emerge from a tunnel half-naked and barefoot.
Simango, who was blocked from entering the mine by the Chinese, later recommended that it be closed to protect human life.
Last year, operations at the mine were suspended indefinitely following two accidents in which two people lost their lives.