Editor's Comment

Never neglect safety

BLACK MOUNTAIN

ON A day that Zambia was laying to rest former Cabinet minister Daniel Munkombwe, it recorded a disaster at the infamous Black Mountain in Kitwe on the Copperbelt.Ten lives of miners were lost while seven others were injured during operations at the site.
The accident comes shortly after assurances that the Black Mountain was not a disaster in waiting as safety measures were firmly in place.  Obviously, this is not so.
Ten men, and possibly more, have died largely because of lack of safety or the blatant ignoring of safety measures that must be followed religiously.
As the nation mourns the victims and prays for the recovery of the injured, bold decisions must be taken as a matter of urgency to ensure enforcement of safety measures as advised by mining experts.
While it is true that Black Mountain is the source of livelihoods for hundreds of youths in Kitwe, these youths must be alive for them to benefit from wealth embedded in this slag.
The small-scale miners, popularly known as Jerabos, were recently given a go-ahead by the government to start operating in a more structured and legal way following the conclusion of negotiations with Nkana Alloy, the majority stakeholders.
Both Nkana Alloy, the owners of the mountain, and the youth who were given a 10 percent stake in the mountain must follow the safety standards to the letter.
It is worrisome that so soon after being given the right to mine, 10 people have died. It could be worse if no firm decision is made on enforcement of safety.
Accidents do indeed happen in mines, but not out of such gross neglect of safety.
Not too long ago there was a circulation on social media of videos of part of the slag dump collapsing.  This was an ominous sign that danger was lurking.  The warning was not heeded, and now 10 young men are dead.
Government did its part in helping the youths have a legal business and it is expected that they would play their part by showing that they can manage themselves well when given such an opportunity.
Allowing the youths to have access to the dumpsite for the waste molten by-product after copper smelting is in line with Government policy, which centres on empowering citizens and encourages direct access to mineral resources and wealth creation while insisting on use of safer mining practices.
Government’s desire is for the small-scale miners, majority of whom are youth, to partner with large mining technology management firms to enable them to extract the minerals in more safer and efficient environments.
That is why the youths were given the go-ahead to start scavenging from the mountain, which is heavily rich in cobalt.
However, it is clear that safety issues were neglected leading to yesterday’s fatal mining operation.
Not too long ago, several houses in the vicinity of the dumpsite suffered structural damage from the impact of explosives detonated at the Black Mountain.
This was another clear indication that safety was not being adhered to.
The warnings were disregarded and the miners went about with business as usual. It has resulted in the burying of artisanal miners in the slag.
It should be obvious that the site be closed immediately to allow for a thorough investigation and presentation of recommendations on how best to manage the site without minimal or zero risk to lives.
With possible solutions already in hand, the focus must be on enforcement of these measures.  So it shouldn’t take too long to get the report ready.
We urge all stakeholders to take this calamity seriously and never again compromise on safety.  We need our youths well, healthy and alive.

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