MAC: Mines and Communities

Workers shot during Zambia copper mine riots

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

Workers shot during Zambia copper mine riots

By Shapi Shacinda, Reuters

26 July 2006

LUSAKA - Zambia's Chinese-run Chambishi copper mine has stopped production after riots in which six workers were shot following a dispute over delayed wages which unions say are the lowest in the industry.

Police spokesman Chrispin Kapela told Reuters on Wednesday that the miners were shot on Tuesday by Chambishi mine "personnel", but he declined to say if the personnel he was referring to were the Chinese managers at the plant.

Zambia's restive Copperbelt region has been the scene of labour violence in the past. A senior official said the mine planned to resume work on Thursday.

"We suspended production after the riots and we hope to resume tomorrow (Thursday)," Michael Hao, head of administration at the mine, told Reuters.

There were conflicting reports on the shooting of the miners. A union official separately said six workers had been shot and wounded, five by a Chinese manager and one by police.

Hao said only police had fired their weapons.

"None of our managers opened fire, it's not true that we were involved in the shooting. It is the police who shot the rioters," he said.

Kapela told Reuters: "Our (preliminary) investigations have shown that the miners were shot by mine personnel who were trying to protect company property."

"We have continued with the investigations and the outcome will determine what course of caction police must take."

Hao said the riots had been sparked by a wage dispute.

"There are six (miners) in the Sino-Zam hospital right now. Our Chinese doctors are treating them," Hao told Reuters.

Wages Paid

Chambishi mine company secretary Xu Ruiyong said workers had been paid their wages.

National Union of Mining and Allied Workers (NUMAW) general secretary Albert Mando insisted that investigations by the union officials had shown that only one of the miners was shot by the police, the remainder by the Chinese management.

"The police shot only one miner while the rest were shot by the Chinese," Mando said.

"This is a very unfortunate incident because management is the one that abrogated the agreement after agreeing to the (pay) terms. The six miners are in hospital right now," Mando added.

Mando said workers at Chambishi were the lowest paid in the entire mining sector.

"The workers get as little as 350,000 kwacha ($100) per month and this makes them the lowest paid," Mando said. The lowest paid workers at Zambia's leading copper producer, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), get $424 per month.

Xu agreed that some conditions of service were "not good."

"We are favourable in certain conditions and yes some areas are unfavourable, but this is a matter for the management and the union to streamline," Xu told Reuters.

Xu said he did not expect a backlash against the Chinese.

"I met the workers and they were friendly to me. I don't think there can be a backlash," he said.

China Nonferrous Metal Mining (Group) Co. Ltd. has mined copper from the Zambian mine since 2003. Currently, it produces 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes of copper in ore a year.

China Nonferrous said on Tuesday that it had started producing refined copper from the Chambishi mine and would soon start building a smelter.

China is becoming increasingly active in Africa with an eye to the commodities it needs to feed its ravenous economy.

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