MAC: Mines and Communities

Zambia: Chinese managers arrested for shooting protesting mineworkers

Published by MAC on 2010-10-25
Source: AFP, BBC, Reuters, Lusaka Times & others (2010-10-21)

Last week's shootings by Chinese mine managers of workers at the Collum coal mine in Zambia, have reverberated around the continent and beyond.

The miners were protesting at a failure to pay wages owed and the conditions under which they had to labour.

For the past five years Zambia has been the preferred African target for direct Chinese mining-related investment.

In 2005, 49 workers died in an explosion at the Chambisi copper mine due to negligence by the Chinese owners.

Since then, many Zambians have called for Chinese mining investment to be restricted, if not banned altogether. The government's response has been lukewarm, to say the least.

The Collum mine was closed in 2006 after workers protested at the lack of basic protective gear and proper safety regulation. See: African workers now resent Chinese influx

But, since the mine's re-opening, many accidents have been recorded - including no less than three within one week in 2008.

Reportedly, injured workers have received no proper compensation.  A  call on the Zambian government, to (again) close the mine until safety standards iare mproved, has been  ignored.

ESPAÑOL

Backlash as miners shot by Chinese overseers

By Aislinn Laing

Sydney Morning Herald

21 October 2010

JOHANNESBURG: A backlash against China's powerful presence in the Zambian economy has been triggered by an incident in which 11 miners were shot by Chinese managers.

Police said the Chinese executives opened fire on workers protesting against poor pay and conditions at the Collum coalmine in the Sinazongwe district of Southern Province on Friday.

Eleven people were treated for wounds to the stomach, hands and legs and two are understood to remain in a critical condition.

A foreign ministry official in Beijing said the shooting was a ''mistake'' but the incident has led to demands to curb China's dominant position in mining investments. It invested $402 million in Zambia's mining industry last year.

The Patriotic Front, a leading opposition party, is campaigning for elections next year on a platform of restricting Chinese investment until conditions are improved.

''We know we can't be protected by this government because it has been heavily corrupted by the Chinese for the 2011 elections and the current byelections,'' said Michael Sata, the party's leader.

Madinda Siamubotu, a shooting victim, said the miners had been ordered to stop mining because enough coal had been produced and were told they would go without pay for days.

He said when workers gathered to protest the pay cut, the managers walked out of their offices with shotguns and opened fire. A witness said miners had thrown rocks before the shooting started.

Rayford Mbulu, the president of the Mineworkers Union of Zambia, said the incident illustrated the reckless disregard for employees at Chinese facilities.

''We don't care what investments people bring in the country,'' he said. ''Workers should be protected.''

Xiao Li Shan, 48, and Wu Jiu Hua, 46, both supervisors at the Collum coalmine, appeared briefly in court on Tuesday charged with attempted murder and were remanded in custody.

CNN reported the mine's management has repeatedly locked horns with its employees because of pay and working conditions. In June, about 22 miners were injured underground.

The Zambian government temporarily closed the mine because it lacked adequate safety standards last year.

China's companies fall under near constant criticism from unions, opposition politicians and ordinary people over what they say are the unsafe working conditions and low wages offered to locals by the Chinese-run firms, the broadcaster said.

Zambia's Mines Minister, Maxwell Mwale, and other ministers have warned Chinese investors to abide by Zambian laws and to do a better job of protecting their employees.

The worst accident involving a Chinese company in Zambia happened in 2005 when close to 50 people were killed in an explosion at the Beijing General Research Institute of Mining and Metallurgy factory in the town of Chambishi.


Chinese bosses charged over Zambian mine shooting

BBC News

18 October 2010

Police in Zambia have charged two Chinese mine managers with attempted murder after they allegedly opened fire on a group of miners.

At least 11 workers were injured in the incident at the Collum coal mine in the southern town of Sinazongwe.

The owners were reported to have felt threatened by the miners during a protest about their pay and conditions.

The case has brought an angry reaction in Zambia, where Chinese businesses have invested heavily.

Police say the miners had been protesting against poor working conditions at the Collum mine on Friday when the managers opened fire at random.

The injured men were treated in hospital at Sinazongwe but two were later transferred to a hospital in the capital, Lusaka, said Reuters.

Sinazongwe district commissioner Oliver Pelete told reporters the Chinese managers were being held in prison until their court appearance.

They have been named as Xiao Li Shan, 48, and Wu Jiu Hua, 46.

The attempted murder charge means the case can only be heard in the high court.

China has invested more than $400m (£250m) in Zambia's mining industry and Chinese investments in the country are continuing to grow.

But this has led to rising tensions in some areas and complaints that the government is prioritising Chinese investment over workers' rights.

The BBC's Mutuna Chanda in Lusaka says opposition politicians are planning to stage a protest outside the Chinese embassy.

They are angry at the shooting itself but also believe that the government has not taken a strong enough stand in such incidents, says our correspondent.


China in Africa: Canary in a Mine Shaft?

By Peter Bosshard

Huffington Post

20 October 2010

Miners work at the physical edge of our consumer society. Like the canary in the mine shaft, they are sentinels for the triumph, toil and tragedy of the global economic system. Only days after the miraculous rescue of the Chilean miners, Chinese supervisors shot and wounded 11 workers in a coal mine in Zambia on October 15. The labor conflict casts a dark shadow on the track record of Chinese overseas investors.

This is not the first time labor struggles at a Zambian mine have put the spotlight on the role of Chinese investors in Africa. A massive blast at the Chinese-owned Chambishi copper mine killed 49 workers in 2005. The following year, security forces killed five protesting workers at the mine.

The killings created outrage throughout Africa, and sent shockwaves through the Chinese government. In country after country, President Hu Jintao urged Chinese businesses to respect local laws when he visited Africa in early 2007. At home, the Chinese authorities began preparing a flurry of guidelines and recommendations to improve the social and environmental performance of Chinese companies overseas.

In the most significant step yet, the Ministries of Commerce and Environmental Protection in July 2009 published draft Guidelines on the Environmental Behavior of Chinese Foreign Investors. These guidelines emphasize the social and environmental responsibility of Chinese companies and banks abroad, and foresee the creation of appeal mechanisms for "local controversial projects".

On October 15, a group of workers at the Chinese Collum Coal Mine (CCM) in Southern Zambia took concerns over unsafe working conditions to the mine's management.

Under circumstances which have not been clarified, the Chinese managers shot and wounded 11 of the workers. Two of them are in critical conditions, and the managers have meanwhile been charged with attempted murder. Like in 2006, the violent labor conflict triggered strong political protests in Zambia.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson explained that the Zambian workers had been "wounded by mistake". This does not answer the question why managers confront their workers with shotguns in the first place. And the Collum mine, ­ a private Chinese enterprise, ­ has a long history of safety problems and labor conflicts. The mine recorded three accidents within one week in 2008.

A local representative reported that the injured workers received no compensation, and called on the Zambian government to close the mine until the safety standard was improved. Yet the accidents continued throughout 2009 and 2010.

The district's health director complained in 2009 that the stream emanating from the Collum mine was so polluted that neighboring villages were suffering from cholera outbreaks. Another local representative charged that workers were receiving "slave wages" and were not able to feed their families. The safety and labor conditions resulted in several strikes and violent conflicts between workers and their management over the years.

The scandalous conditions at the Collum mine reflect the dangerous and often exploitative conditions in China's own mining sector. Within China, workers, non-governmental organizations and the media have very limited means to inform the public about the breach of safety and labor regulations. In China's overseas investments, muzzling public opinion is usually not possible.

The labor conflict at Zambia¹s Collum mine is not an isolated case, and is hugely damaging for China¹s image in Africa. If the Chinese government is serious about cleaning up the safety, labor and environmental record of its overseas investors, recommendations and appeals will no longer do the trick. As it has demonstrated in other areas, the government, which still owns the biggest Chinese companies
after all, has ample means to enforce its will.

It should quickly adopt the environmental guidelines for foreign investors, which have lingered in draft stage for too long. It should closely supervise Chinese companies which invest abroad, and crack down on investors which violate Chinese guidelines and local law. No matter who the owners are, the scandalous environmental, health and safety conditions which have been espoused by the Collum mine for so long are no longer acceptable.

Peter Bosshard is the policy director of International Rivers. He blogs at www.internationalrivers.org/en/blog/peter-bosshard


Zambian President urges calm after mine shooting

By Chris Mfula

Reuters

22 October 2010

LUSAKA - Zambian President Rupiah Banda called for calm on Thursday after the shooting of 11 workers last week at a Chinese-run mine sparked broad condemnation of Chinese firms by unions and opposition parties.

Two Chinese mine managers from Collum Mine, about 325 km (200 miles) south of the capital Lusaka, have been arrested and charged with attempted murder in connection with the shooting, which occured during a protest against poor pay and conditions.

Nine of the men who were shot are out of danger, but two were transferred to a hospital in Lusaka at the weekend for surgery.

The incident has led to a backlash against the Chinese, big investors in the southern African nation's mining industry.

"Let us be careful that we do not single out people. Everyday people are shot by Zambians, whites and Americans ... we should not create a phobia," Banda said.

"We as politicians should not politicise labour matters. The country's economy is growing (because) investors are coming from everywhere," he added.

Chinese companies have not enjoyed an easy ride in Zambia, where staff, unions and opposition politicians frequently accuse them of abuses.

In 2005, five Zambians were shot and wounded by managers during pay riots at the Chinese-owned Chambishi mine in the northern Copperbelt Province.

Collum Mine supplies coal to mines in the Copperbelt and to Zambia's largest cement producer, a unit of France's Lafarge.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the world's second biggest economy has always required Chinese companies to adhere to local laws and regulations.

(Additional reporting by Sabrina Mao and Ben Blanchard, Writing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; editing by Noah Barkin)


Manager shoots 11 miners

By Ndubi Mvula and Yande Kapeya

Daily Mail (Zambia)

16 October 2010

ELEVEN miners at the Chinese Collum Mine in Sinazeze, Southern Province were yesterday allegedly shot and wounded by their Chinese management official when they staged a protest demanding better conditions of service.

And Southern Province Minister Elijah Muchima said it is unacceptable for the investors at the mine to use fire-arms on harmless miners.

The eleven are currently admitted to Maamba Hospital with one critically injured after being shot in the stomach.

Sinazongwe district commissioner Oliver Pelete confirmed the incident, which happened between 09:00 hours and 09:30 hours.

"Yes, I can confirm that we have woken up to this disaster involving the miners who were shot at by a Chinese management official after they staged a protest demanding better conditions of service.

They were shot with a shortgun using pellets which hit the victims. One is critical after having been shot in the stomach and would undergo an operation," he said.
Mr Pelete said all the 11 injured miners are admitted to Maamba Hospital undergoing treatment.

He said the police rushed to the scene to verify the circumstances and possibly make an arrest of the culprit.

And Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mutale Nalumango has directed the Minister of Home Affairs to present a ministerial statement on the matter.

Ms Nalumango made ruling after Sinazongwe member of Parliament Raphael Muyanda (UPND) raised a point of order on the matter.

Mr Muyanda wondered whether the Minister of Home Affairs was in order not to issue a statement over the alleged shooting of 11 miners by a Chinese investor in Sinazongwe.

And Mr Muchima said Government wants investors who can dialogue with affected workers instead of employers who use fire-arms, reports ZNBC.

He directed Police to investigate the matter and bring the culprits to book.

And the Zambia News and Information Services reports that a check at Maamba Hospital found doctors and health personnel attending to the 11 injured miners.

The 11 injured miners include Simon Simwete, 28, Abby Siameba, 25, Virason Mwanamusiya, 24, Madinda Siamubotu, 27, Wisbone Simukonda, 25, Boston Munakazela, 21, Wallen Muntanga, 28 and Humphrey Sinuka, 24.

Others are Brighton Sianfuno 21, Bowas Syapwaya 21, and Vincent Chengele, 20.

Meanwhie, Nkandabbwe and Sinazeze residents blocked the road leading to the Chinese Collum mine and no vehicles were being allowed to go in or out of the mine.

Sinazeze police had difficulties to disperse the residents that blocked the road leading to the Chinese Collum mine.


Zambia: Sinazongwe residents in fury after mine shooting

Lusaka Times

16 October 2010

RELATIVES of the 11 miners who were yesterday shot and injured by Chinese nationals at the Collum Coal Mine in Sinazongwe district of Southern Province have threatened to take the law into their own hands if police hesitate to arrest the culprits.

And United Party for National Development (UPND) director of logistics Sibote Sibote has urged government to immediately launch an investigation into the shooting incident and take action against the management of the company.

According to Radio Phoenix, one of the relatives of the victims, Mr Hamiyanze expressed anger at the Chinese nationals and warned that the relatives to the victims would resort to ‘other means' if government delayed to act.

"Some of those miners who were shot are my relative and I feel sad and angry to see this... what is happening in our country, Just when we were witnessing the rescue of trapped miners in Chile, here in Zambia the miners are being shot by their own management."

"The situation is tense here in Sinazonge, residents and my fellow victims' relatives are angry with this and we are calling on the government to arrest these (Chinese) people before residents here resort to other means," Hamayanze said.

He called for a police investigation into the matter and ensure that culprits are brought to book.

Eleven miners including one onlooker are nursing serious wounds in Maamba Hospital after being shot by Chinese nationals at the Coal mine yesterday.

Sinazongwe District Commissioner Oliver Pelete confirmed that the 11 victims were shot while they were presenting their grievances of poor working conditions to Chinese Management.

The DC who escorted the injured miners to Hospital yesterday said two of the miners were in critical condition. The 11 injured miners include, Simon Simwete 28, Abby Siameba 25, Virason Mwanamusiya 24, Madinda Siamubotu 27, Wisbone Simukonda 25, Boston Munakazela 21, Wallen Muntanga 28 and Humphrey Sinuka 24.

In January this year, government closed down the Chinese owned mine following its managements failure to address the poor sanitary conditions at the mine which led to an outbreak of Cholera and was reopened three weeks later.

In April 2009, 250 workers were laid off by the Mine's management on grounds that the market for coal was shrinking.

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