PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has warned that the Government would be left with no option but repossess the country’s only underground coal mine again if there was no change in the safety and operational standards.
The President was speaking today in Sinazongwe District in Southern Province when he re-commissioned the Collum Coal Mine which is set to employ more than 1,000 workers.
The mine which is set to start its operations on Tuesday was placed under care and maintenance in 2012 after the government revoked the license of Collum Coal Mining Industries due to persistent breaches of regulations.
President Lungu who commissioned it today said the Government has decided to give back the mine to the Chinese firm after assurance that necessary measures have been taken to improve the operations.
The Government revoked the mining license of the Chinese firm in 2012 following persistent failure to comply with mining regulations. As well as failing to provide personal protective equipment to its employees, the company could not afford to pay mineral royalty tax.
Mr Lungu warned that the Government would not hesitate to close the mine once again if there was no improvement of operations.
In 2010, more than 10 miners were shot at the mine by Chinese managers after labour disputes while then Southern Province Minister Alice Simango could not hold back her tears upon seeing employees working without garments earlier.
“A decision was made to close this mine because there were so many breaches and it became intolerable for Government to ignore the operations,” he said.
“But after being elected president, I decided to reopen it, but I have taken a personal risk although I am glad to hear that my concerns have been taken care of and that the mine will employ more than 1,000 workers.”
Mr Lungu admitted that he had taken a risk by giving back the mine to the Chinese firm and directed the Ministry of mines to ensure that safety was guaranteed before full operations resumed.
He also directed Chinese managers at the company to familiarise themselves with the local traditional and culture to avert misunderstandings.
The President also assured that no one would die from hunger following poor rains because his Government was currently assessing the needs of the people in dufferent parts of the country.
Earlier Collum Coal Mining Industries general manager Xu Jain Xue said the handing over of the mine was a sign that the Government had confidence in the Chinese firm.
“The handover of the coal mine by Government back to us as the Chinses
owners is a great and positive development for the people of Sinazongwe, Southern Province and Zambia as a whole.
“More so that there will be more job creation and ultimately poverty alleviation not only in this part of Zambia but in the country as a whole,”he said.
Mr Xu said the company had committed to invest about US $40 million in the next four years for infrastructure renovations and development as well as exploration.
The company further intends to increase its production capacity from the current 12,000 tonnes per month over 40,000 tonnes.
Chief Sinazongwe said in his vote of thank that the reopening of the mine would change the economic outlook of the district and assured the head of state that traditional leaders would support efforts aimed at developing the country.
Meanwhile President Lungu also toured on the ongoing construction of Sinazeze Market where scores of residents lined up in the streets to catch a glimpse of him.