Over 2,000 houses in Nkandabwe in Sinazongwe district have development huge crack and about to collapse due to the effects of underground mining activity at Column Coal mine in the area.
Chief Sinazongwe of the Tonga people in the district explained that an agreement was signed in October, 2017 in which the mine was supposed to compensate the affected families to enable them relocate but this has not been done up to date.
The chief was speaking when he and the local leadership visited the affected area.
He expressed disappointment that despite various stakeholders having engaged the mine management over the agreement, the pact has not been honoured.
“When the agreement was made, people agreed to move if compensated. It has been four months now and the mine has not followed the agreement,” the traditional leader said.
And the affected families have appealed to government to immediately come to their aid.
Catherine Siabweene, whose family is currently sleeping in a tent, narrated that the underground mine tunnels left in the area are forming cracks which are extending to the to surface, thereby affecting houses.
“My family had to move out of our house as we could hear the ground shake as the cracks grew bigger. The tent we are now sleeping in is uncomfortable when it rains,” She lamented.
Meanwhile, the local authority in the district has called on the mine to prioritise the safety of human lives.
Sinazongwe District Council Secretary Herbert Ng’andu urged management to emulate other investors in the district such as Maamba Collieries regarding mine safety guidelines compliance.
“This is a ticking time bomb requiring urgent attention,” Mr. Ng’andu said.
Sinazongwe District Commissioner Protacial Mulenga has since issued a 14-day ultimatum for the mine to compensate the affected families or risk being closed.
“We do not want anyone entrusted with such a responsibility to dent the image of government. We want all investors to ensure that the communities in the areas they operate are protected,” he stressed.
And Column Coal Mine Safety Manager, Elvis Ng’andu was at pains to explain why the affected families have not been compensated up to date.
Mr. Ng’andu instead referred all queries to the Column Coal Mine headquarters in Lusaka.