Government takes control of Chinese coal mine

A Chinese owned coal mine has been taken over by the Zambian government following breaches to safety and environmental standards, the mines minister says.

“Collum Coal mine has had a history of poor safety, health and environmental compliance,” mines minister Yamfwa Mukanga said in a statement on Wednesday.

“In view of this, my ministry has with immediate effect cancelled all three small scale mining licenses held by Collum Coal Mine.”

“Government has also taken over the running of the mine and will continue to run them until a suitable investor is found.”

The coal mine is located in Sinazongwe, about 325 kilometres south of the capital Lusaka and according to Sky News has in the past few years been embroiled in controversy.

In 2010 two Chinese managers were charged with attempted murder after they allegedly opened fire on a group of protesting miners.

In 2012 Australian Mining reported workers at the mine killed a Chinese manager during a riot over poor work conditions.

Last year Beijing's ambassador to Lusaka Zhou Yuxiao revealed that China has invested more than $2 billion dollars in Zambia and created 50,000 jobs, with trade between the two reaching $3.4 billion in 2012.

Despite this tensions remain between Zambian workers and Chinese companies, and past attempts by the Zambian government to remedy the situation have failed.

Concerns over site safety and work conditions at the Chinese-owned facility were last year raised by Human Rights Watch. It claimed four Chinese state-owned firms ignored labour protections, demanding up to 18 hours of work a day and repeatedly flouted health and safety rules.

Mukanga said the mine had not been paying mineral royalties either.

“The company has also failed to meet statutory obligations such as declaration of mineral production and payment of mineral royalties to government,” he said.

Recently violence and unrest is not uncommon on many African mine sites, just last year Marikana miners threatened to kill Lonmin management unless they stopped operations at the platinum mine in North West.

Last week an illegal Chinese miner was arrested in Ghana after he shot three locals with an AK47.

The Chinese man was reportedly one of a group of four who have since been arrested for illegally mining in the area, a situation which had caused tension in the local region.

These tensions resulted in locals attacking and looting the illegal operation, which in turn caused the Chinese miner to open fire on the looters.

The level of illegal mining in Ghana, particularly by Chinese workers, has risen of late and seen a number of violent outbursts.

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