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Sunday, 14 March 2010

Parliamentary Question (Explosives Disaster)

The Chinese BGRIMM Explosives factory accident led to significant loss of lives. Up to this day the Government has never released a report on it. MPs recently raised the issue in the House  in a debate that demonstrates the gross incompetence of some of these government ministers :

Chinese BGRIMM Explosives Factory, Oral Answer (285), Edited Transcript, 26th February, 2010 :

Mr Mukanga (Kantanshi) asked the Minister of Mines and Minerals Development what lasting preventative measures had been taken at the Chinese BGRIMM Explosives Factory following the 2005 disaster in which forty-nine lives were lost.

Mr Nkhata: Madam Speaker, the Chinese BGRIMM Explosives Factory has not yet been re-built to recommence production and, therefore, no lasting preventive measures have been taken. However, the following measures will be taken if the factory is to be reconstructed:

(i) the plant should be designed in such a way that it is divided into three sections with physical barriers (bund walls) in between, that is, mixing, sensitisation and cartridging. This is to ensure that an explosion in one section does not affect other sections;

(ii) the cartridged explosives or finished products should not be allowed to accumulate in the plant. They should continuously be taken away to storage magazines as they are produced. This is to minimise the impact of a possible accidental explosion;

(iii) automate the processing equipment to reduce the number of people in the plant being exposed to the risk of an explosion. This includes online sensitisation as opposed to manual mixing of the sensitiser;

(iv) only one production line should be operated at any one time. BGRIMM were operating the Anfex Plant and Cartridged Explosives Plant simultaneously, thus increasing the number of people present in the plant at any one time; and

(v) adherence to the requirements of the Explosives Act and the subsidiary Explosives Regulations.

Mr Mukanga: Madam Speaker, I would like to find out from the hon. Minister why report for this BGRIMM accident has not been made public up to now and when it is going to be made public.

Mr Kambwili: Madam Speaker, firstly, I wanted to correct the impression given that there is still a building at the BGRIMM Explosives Factory. The whole factory was razed to the ground as a result of the blast.  I would like to find out from the hon. Minister why it has taken five years to carry out investigations and come up with a report. Furthermore, why is it that only Zambians died in the accident when there were also Chinese nationals on duty on that particular day?

Mr Nkhata: Madam Speaker, it takes time for people to prepare an evacuation from a building such as the one in question, depending on how the accident took place. This is the reason people are still investigating the circumstances of the accident. In terms of that particular accident, I do not think it is right to assume that there were Chinese nationals working among the Zambians who died in that incident. It is not possible for an accident to selectively kill people of a certain nationality.

Mr Mwenya (Nkana) : Madam Speaker, could I find out from the hon. Minister of Mines and Minerals Development why it is taking so long to have the report on that accident released? In fact, why is it that we have a problem with reports being released? For example, the report on the football players who died in Gabon has been problematic. Again, the report on the people who died at BGRIMM has also become a problem …Could the hon. Minister tell us clearly where the problem is in releasing a report to the nation on this incident and why hon. Members on your right should expect the people of Chambeshi to vote for them.

Hon. MMD Members: Aah!

Madam Deputy Speaker: That question was asked a few minutes ago.

Ms Kapata: Madam Speaker, how was the US$10,000 compensation to the families of the people who died at the BGRIMM Explosives Factory arrived at without a report being issued?

Mr Nkhata: Madam Speaker, I think it is a well-known fact that each family had to be paid something. This is why the Government asked the company to pay K150 million to each family.

Mr Muntanga (Kalomo Central): Madam Speaker, I would like the hon. Minister to clarify the true position of the factory. Before any factory is set up, the ministry sends inspectors. He has also mentioned what is needed to set up a good factory. In fact, the factory was built without safety facilities. Why was the factory allowed to start operating without the new safety facilities he has just told us about?

Mr Nkhata: Madam, inspectors were there and what happened at that time is that another line was added which needed more people to be in the plant. The accident happened after the inspectors had been to the plant. Besides, inspectors are not always at the plant. There is set time when to inspect the building.

1 comment:

  1. It is clear from the government's failure to publish the report, or even to make any response to questions about this, that the report must have been very critical of the factory design and of its management. Publication would therefore be extremely embarrassing to the Chinese, and would provoke strong Zambian resentment. If, for 'diplomatic' reasons the report is to be withheld, there should be no question of permission being given for our Chinese friends to build a replacement.

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