MAC: Mines and Communities

Zambian miners kill Chinese manager during pay protest

Published by MAC on 2012-08-13
Source: BBC, Reuters, Mining.com (2012-08-08)

Zambian miners kill Chinese manager during pay protest

BBC News

5 August 2012

Zambian miners have killed a Chinese manager by pushing a mine trolley at him during a riot at a coal mine in the south of the country.

A second Chinese was injured, as were several Zambians, during the riot on Saturday.

The workers were on strike at the mine in protest against delays in implementing a new minimum wage.

They were angry their wages were lower than a new minimum of $220 (£140) a month paid to shop workers.

Zambia's minister of labour has gone to the Chinese-owned Collum coal mine in Sinazongwe, 325km (200 miles) south of the capital, Lusaka.

"Wu Shengzai, aged 50, has been killed by protesting workers after being hit by a trolley which was pushed towards him by the rioting miners as he ran away into the underground where he wanted to seek refugee," Southern province police commissioner Fred Mutondo told state news agency, the Zambia News and Information Services.

"He died on the spot while his colleague is in hospital."

Last year, the Zambian government dropped charges against two Chinese managers accused of attempted murder after they fired on miners at the Collum mine during a pay dispute.

Chinese firms own several mines in southern African countries, including coal and copper operations.

Copper mining is one of Zambia's main industries, providing nearly three-quarters of the country's exports; many of the mining companies are foreign-owned, and China has invested more than $400m (£250m) in Zambia.

A 2011 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that, despite improvements in recent years, safety and labour conditions at Chinese mines were worse than at other foreign-owned mines.


Fatal clash over $80 a month mining wage strains Zambia China relations

Frik Els

Mining.com

6 August 2012

FT.com reports a Chinese supervisor died on Saturday after being hit by a trolley pushed at him at the Collum mine in Zambia during a dispute over minimum wages.

The Chinese embassy in Lusaka said two other Chinese nationals were slightly injured in the incident in Zambia's southern province.

According to China Daily Zambia's government recently decreed a substantial increase of the minimum wage for mine workers to about $200 (1 million kwacha) a month, but according to the South African Broadcasting Corporation miners at Collum are paid a minimum salary of only $80.

Two years ago Chinese supervisors wounded 13 local workers with shotguns in another pay dispute at the coal mine which produces some 100,000 tonnes a year. Chinese investment in Zambia has long been an issue in the African nation.

The UK's Telegraph reports if a similar incident to the October 2010 shooting at Collum were to occur at a mine operated by the likes of Rio Tinto or Anglo American there would be a popular outcry that would send the their share prices tumbling, but nothing of the sort happened after this incident:

"The Chinese argued they were acting in self defence, and Beijing made clear that should charges be pressed against them, bilateral relations would suffer. Zambia, unable to stand up to its biggest foreign investor, duly caved in: no criminal case was ever brought against the managers."

The latest incident would add further pressure on president Michael Sata who took office on the promise of improving mining conditions and a bigger share of mining profits for Zambians following protests at Chinese-owned copper mines and a brief ban on metal exports to sort out revenue collection in Africa's top copper producer.

Sata at times also employed fierce anti-Chinese rhetoric while in opposition and his first meeting since taking office last year was with the Chinese ambassador to dispel fears over shifts in investment policy. Chinese investment in Zambia reached $2.4 billion in 2011 equal to roughly 20% of the southern African nation's GDP.

Chinese-run copper mines in Zambia are routinely mistreating workers and breaking the law by imposing up to 18-hour shifts and flouting international health and safety standards, according to a Human Rights Watch November 2011 report, "'You'll Be Fired if You Refuse': Labor Abuses in Zambia's Chinese State-owned Copper Mines".


Zambia police charge miner for killing of Chinese supervisor

Reuters

8 August 2012

NKANDABWE, Zambia - Zambian police have charged a coal miner with murder in connection with the killing of a Chinese supervisor during a protest over pay, a police official said on Tuesday.

Zambian miners killed the supervisor and seriously wounded another on Saturday in the dispute at the Collum coal mine, about 325 km south of Lusaka, labour minister Fackson Shamenda said earlier this week.

"We have charged one person with murder and 11 others with rioting and theft. They will appear in court tomorrow," Southern Province police chief Fred Mutondo told Reuters.

He said the police was looking for three other men suspected of having been involved in the murder.

The Chinese embassy in Zambia has demanded that the incident be thoroughly investigated and murderers punished severely.

China also demanded that security measures should be stepped up to guarantee the safety of Chinese workers and prevent similar incidents in future.

Chinese companies have invested more than $1 billion in copper-rich Zambia but there have been tensions, with Zambian workers accusing some firms of abuses and underpaying.

Labour minister Shamenda, speaking on Sunday, said he had yet to establish the exact circumstances but he had a report that workers had been demanding pay in line with a new minimum wage introduced by Zambia in July.

Neither the arrested miners nor their trade union representatives could immediately be reached to comment.

The Collum coal mine is a private company owned by five Chinese brothers and has been in existence for 11 years.

Two years ago, Zambian police charged two Chinese supervisors at the mine with attempted murder following the shooting of 13 miners in a pay dispute. The charges were later dropped.

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