The Government and scavengers are also known as hand pickers have failed to reach a consensus on the mechanism of operating the Black Mountain in Kitwe.
Minister of Mines and Mineral Development Paul Kabuswe on Saturday met scavengers near the mine site and told them to stop climbing the Black Mountain to pick chrome which is one of the major minerals found at the Back Mountain.
Mr. Kabuswe suggested that people operating tippers will be taking material outside the mine site where the scavengers will be picking from to prevent accidents.
But the hand pickers argued that they want to be picking chrome for themselves because it is unlikely that operators will be giving them valuable raw material.
“Let them allow us to climb the Black Mountain like we have been doing in the past. We can’t trust the process of them giving us material which has already been dug,” one of the hand-pickers said.
Mr. Kabuswe, however, maintained that no one will be allowed to climb the Black Mountain because it can lead to deaths in case it collapses.
“We know that you are hungry that is why we have come here. First thing, I want to tell you that we are worried that you are climbing over the Black Mountain to pick chrome. That mountain can collapse and people can die. That is not what we want. I have heard your cries that people who are operating with tippers are just doing it anyhow without considering whether or not the material is profitable. I don’t want to see you cheated by bringing material that is not profitable. I want to ensure that they are giving you material that has chrome in it,” Mr. Kabuswe said.
“I am telling the mine manager and geologists that if you want to be using tippers, ensure that you get material which has a lot of chrome. The material can be easily identified. So we don’t want people to be given worthless material that has no chrome. We have told mine manager and geologists to find the correct belt that has chrome. Yes you know where chrome is because you have been here at the Black Mountain for a long time but some people have gone to school for these things. These people who have gone to school are experts in this field and know where to pick chrome from. People were just digging and picking chrome any way I have seen that because I am also a miner,” he said.
“Listen to me, when something has started don’t say it won’t happen, when you try and it fails, try more options that is how life is. This Black Mountain is too huge. Some of you will die before it is finished so take it easy until things work out well. This Black Mountain exists because of you, the people of Zambia and not me the Minister. As a Minister I am just an overseer to ensure that you benefit from the Black Mountain and that your lives are safeguarded. People should not benefit from the Black Mountain at the expense of others losing lives. We don’t want that,” Mr. Kabuswe added.
“That incident where people climbed up the Mountain with others singing will not happen again. I am asking you people of Zambia when a new thing comes, let’s try it. If it fails I will come back just like I came back because I was here three weeks ago. I am back after hearing things are not working as earlier planned. Operators should dig on portions rich in chrome and give you. So you want to climb the Black Mountain? No. Listen to me; I don’t want to repeat the closure of mineral dump sites in Zambia like it happened in the past. I don’t want to suspend operations at this Black Mountain. If one is injured or dead we will close the Black Mountain and what are you going to do. It’s better to try this and that until what we want works. I am telling you that we won’t allow people to climb on the Black Mountain to pick material,” Mr. Kabuswe concluded.
Confusion last week characterized operations at the Black Mountain as hand pickers also referred to as scavengers fought for their share at the mineral dump site.
Police on Tuesday and Thursday fought running battles with scavengers after they were denied entry into the Black Mountain area.
The scavengers blocked the Kitwe-Ndola Road with tyres, logs and stones in protest.