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Friday, 1 March 2013

Check Mate Collum!

Government last week took over the running of a Chinese-owned Collum coal mine after revoking its licence because of safety lapses. Mining Minister Yamfwa Mukanga says the government has cancelled all three licences held by Collum Coal mine. GRZ would "continue operating them until a suitable investor is found". Hon Yamfwa Mukanga says, the mine has a poor safety, health and environmental record. It has failed to consistently provide employees with approved personal protective equipment. He added that it did not have emergency medical treatment facilities such as ambulances or a first-aid station underground.

As well as the safety issues, the company had failed to pay royalties or properly declare how much coal was produced. The mine in question has been controversial. The Minister said, "Collum coal mine owes Government a lot of unpaid mineral royalties...last year alone, the debt came close to close to KR5 million (K5 billion)....We will look at how much the mine owes Government and what they have invested and work things out". The key phrase there is"last year alone". One wonders how many other mining houses are in similar position, without paying mineral royalties.

Also since Collum has been acting illegally and owes money, presumably there's little compensation. What now needs to happen is that ZCCM-IH should invite bids for partnership like it did in 2009 with Maamba, when Nava Bharat won. But this should be a 50-50 deal. In general this is a fantastic. Collum mine has been a very nasty stain on conscience of Zambia's mining industry. It has come to represent what happens when money is put ahead of human life. This is a decisive decision. 

Equally important is that the Minister has signalled clearly that "Government is not interested in nationalisation", which is clear and definite communication to assure all investors. The Ministry of Mines has made tremendous progress in many areas in recent months. We have seen ZCCM-IH brought back on track. ZEMA's integrity has been restored. The labour movement is no longer fighting their employers. This latest move will again add confidence that Government values human life. We also have recent the signals that Government want higher share in mining companies, alongside a revised fiscal regime. Its not perfect, but I think there's reason to be hopeful.


  1. read this document and you will undrestand...

    “You’ll Be Fired if You Refuse”
    Labor Abuses in Zambia’s Chinese State-owned Copper Mines


  2. Those slaveholders have been sufficiently warned...


    Collum Coal Mine Rife With Problems Before Shooting

    By Chen Zhu and Zhang Boling

    29 October 2010

    Withheld wages and severely poor working conditions were a frequent source of conflict between workers and mine managers

    A shooting at a privately-owned Chinese mine in Zambia on October 15 which injured 11 local mine employees and one resident has put Chinese investment in the country between the crosshairs of a labor relations debate. Sporadic strikes and conflicts between local workers and Chinese management had occurred since 2004 due to the disputes surrounding payment and other employment issues.

    Two Chinese nationals in the coal mine incident have been charged by Zambian police with attempted murder, although a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the managers at the Collum Coal Mine had "mistakenly wounded" the Zambian employees.

    According to the Chinese embassy source, the shooting happened when mine workers protested against poor pay and working conditions. The Collum Mine promised to pay workers their wages on October 15 but failed to. Around 200 miners protested at the mine and the Chinese managers were not able to communicate with the workers due to their inadequate English.

    Caixin learned that the private company's owners have struggled with employee relations for years. In fact, the strife that led to gunfire has roots in chaotic management and negligence toward Zambian laws and mine regulations.

    The Collum Mine is owned by Chinese businessman Xu Jianxue, who was a former translator for a trading company based in Jiangxi Province. Xu cultivated connections with Zambian officials during his first stint in the country in the early 1990s and set up a company called Yangtze Jiang Enterprise Ltd.

    Xu's company won contracts for several construction projects, and in 2003 he obtained rights to exploit the lucrative Collum Mine. Currently, Xu manages the mine with four brothers and 70 relatives and family friends. Many are former Chinese migrant laborers with few language and management skills.

    Collum Mine's business relies on fluctuating demand from local cement factories. It is the only local coal mine in continuous operation; Zambia's state-owned Maamba Collieries Mine was shut down in 2006 due to a lack of capital investment and poor equipment.

    Caixin learned that although local laws stipulate that employers should pay workers during busy as well as slow periods, while also providing housing and medical insurance, Xu circumvented these requirements by using temporary workers. Complaints from the local workers fell on deaf ears, and physical abuse of employees was not unusual.

    "The bottom line is, don't beat people," Huang Lei, the first translator hired by Collum Mine in 2009 remembers telling Chinese managers in Zambia. But his suggestion was largely ignored.

    The local government was aware of poor working conditions at the mine and tried to shut it down in 2006. Bribery and the fact that local workers needed jobs, however, kept local officials from enforcing their own decision.

    One year earlier, a shooting at the mine was reported, after managers attempted to disperse protesters by shooting into the sky during a strike.

  3. continued

    Business Savvy in Zambia

    Collum Coal Mine owner Xu Jianxue is a native of Leping, Jiangxi Province, but he's been doing business in Zambia for nearly 20 years. He enjoys an extensive network of contacts in the Zambian government, partners with brothers and other relatives, and profits from the private sector.

    Xu moved to the south-central African country in 1991 as a translator for a construction-assistance team with China Jiangxi International Economic and Technical Cooperation Co. After the company completed a project, Xu stayed behind while the rest of the team returned to China. He then became a labor contractor based in Zambia's capital Lusaka, registering his new company as Yangtze Jiang Enterprise Ltd. The business steadily grew and, starting in the late 1990s, he brought four brothers to Zambia from Jiangxi for a piece of the action.

    Yangtze Jiang worked on several government and public construction projects in Zambia, including the Zambia Anti-Corruption Bureau Building, Shimizu Corp.'s secondary education sector projects, the national Presidential Palace, a presidential lounge at an airport, and even a mausoleum for former president Kenneth David Kaunda. Xu's company also benefited from a multimillion-dollar contract awarded to Legacy Zambia Co.'s for a multi-functioned building called Heart of Africa.

    Zambia started awarding mineral rights to foreign companies in 2003, and soon a coal mine in southern Zambia on the Zimbabwean border caught Xu's eye.

    The mine's previous foreign investors had given up in the face of geological risks around Lake Kariba as well as security dangers in the area. In addition, said a technical manager who worked in the area several years, the mine suffered from poor labor quality marked by a lack of discipline, weak organizational skills and a combative spirit tied to a trade union. Moreover, coal extracted from Zambian mines can be of poor quality, which has scared off major mining companies that prefer more profitable ventures.

    Xu, undeterred by the challenges, offered to buy the mine. His company was the sole bidder for a coal facility with an uncertain future. Yet he and his brothers had already pocketed a lot of money from their construction business, and soon the Collum Mine was making money as well.

    Just how much the Xu brothers have made by mining coal is a mystery. Main buyers are local cement factories that operate irregularly, which prevents the mine from running at full capacity and often forces temporary shutdowns.

    A China Land Resources Network report in 2005 said US$ 1.5 million had been invested in the mine in the two years after production began in 2003. Output totaled 20,000 tons in 2004 and was expected to reach 100,000 tons in 2005 - the year the company stopped publicly reporting production volumes. Sources say the mine currently produces 600 tons a day, or some 200,000 tons annually.

  4. 01.02.12

    Jump to Content Government threatens to close Collum mine

    THE government has threatened to revoke Chinese-run Collum Coal Mine's licence and shut down its operations due to poor safety standards.

    And workers at Collum Coal mine on Tuesday demanded that the government take over the running of the mine because the Chinese owners had failed to run it properly.

    During a tour of Collum Coal Mine on Tuesday, mines minister Wylbur Simuusa said he was not happy with the way the mine was being run by the Chinese.

    Simuusa said it was clear that the mine owners were totally disregarding safety standards, adding that the mine does not even have qualified personnel approved by the Ministry of Mines to run it.

    He said the government would not hesitate to shut down the mine and revoke its operating licence if changes are not made quickly.

    Recently, a miner died while underground after a rock fall occurred at shaft 3 at the mine.

    "I made it a point to go down in the shaft to the spot where we lost a miner and I saw exactly where the problem was. I can tell you that our mining industry has not been adequately supervised in the past…that accident was caused by sheer negligence, lack of supervision and not following laid-down procedures and also not respecting the technical aspects of mining," Simuusa said.

    He said the miner who lost his life was operating from an area underground where he was not supposed to be operating from.

    "I offer condolences to the family of that miner who lost his life. That death could have been avoided easily. He the miner was working in an open stop and you don't do that in mining. You don't send people in an open stop…that is suicide. But I am instituting an inquisition on the death of that miner," he said.

    "Mining is a specialised field and you need technical people…but because of lack of proper supervision, you find that the owners of this mine were doing things that are unacceptable. Going forward, we will ensure that the mining industry is properly supervised."

    Simuusa said he would summon the owners of the mine in two weeks time and take them to task over poor safety standards.

    "The owners of this mine are embarrassing the profession. They are also embarrassing the Chinese government who sent them here because Zambia and China have got at working relationship," he said. "I don't know of any other mine which has been so problematic like this one. We had a complaint from the chief, DC and complaint from the workers and we cannot allow this. We want all the stakeholders to be happy."

    And workers at the mine complained of poor working conditions.

    During a heated meeting with officials from the Ministry of Mines, district council and the management, the workers complained of working long hours with little pay.

    They said they were not even given protective clothing.

    They accused management of threatening them with dismissals whenever they complained on wages.

    In an interview, an underground worker, Gashum Muchindu, said he earns K20,000 a day for loading a 75-tonne bucket with raw coal.

    Meanwhile, the Chinese owners said they were ready to abide by the minimum wage as stipulated by the government.


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