Editor's Comment

Safeguard KCM assets

THE sabotaging of Konkola Copper Mine’s (KCM) Nchanga North smelter in Chingola, where the software used to operate the systems and operations was stolen, is not only saddening but also calls for tightening of security at the premises.
There is urgent need to ensure that assets at the mine, which is under liquidation, are well secured to avoid what happened during the privatisation era in the early 90s.
Memories are still fresh on how some unscrupulous individuals took advantage of the transition to rip the mining companies like Roan Antelope Mining Corporation of Zambia (RAMCOZ) off their assets.
Given that most operations at KCM are computerised, theft of the software used to operate the system brought operations at the smelter to a standstill on Tuesday.
According to Copperbelt Police Commissioner, the mine police office reported that flashes containing two application certificates used in operating the smelter went missing on June 4 between 10:30 hours and 15:00 hours.
The police who visited the scene also retrieved some diesel from the machine which contained some foreign substance.
“So when the mine police officer reported to the police that the smelter has stopped working, the officers went on the ground and did their own investigations. In the process of investigating, they recovered diesel from the machine with a foreign substance,” Mrs Katanga said.
It is good that a suspect has reportedly been arrested and we hope that this serves as yet another reminder that security of the facilities should never be taken for granted. This warning was made when management changed hands but evidently, there are some loopholes that still have to be sealed.
It is worrying that some criminally-minded individuals are out there scheming on how they can strip the already troubled company.
Worse still, it looks like there are some people who are intent on trying to cripple the operations of the mine. This should not be allowed to happen. There is just too much at stake for the country.
Government took over operations of KCM last month placing it under liquidation to save it from total collapse due to indebtedness among other factors.
Government also acted to prevent the economy of the Copperbelt from collapsing considering that it is anchored on the mines.
Government is also concerned about the welfare of the workers, suppliers and many other stakeholders whose lives are dependent on the mines.
It is, however, disturbing that some people and Zambians for that matter could engage in senseless acts of sabotage against the mine – the source of livelihood for thousands of people.
It should be known to these narrow-minded and self-centred individuals that a simple act of removing software from the smelter can affect the whole economy not only now but for many years to come.
While the individual, or individuals, who stole the software is focusing on the short-lived gain of a few Kwachas or dollars, the impact on workers with huge families depending on them is unbearable.
It is indisputable that if the mine is grounded, jobs will be lost leading to destitution of families.
Suppliers will also lose their source of income and subsequently the capacity of small businesses to contribute to economic growth will be reduced.
While we are comforted that the smelter has been saved from being grounded for a longer period by the backup system, the theft is a wake-up call to tighten security.
It is worrying that the theft happened in broad daylight under the watch of mine police.
This certainly points to loopholes in the security system.
It is, however, commendable that Government has acted promptly by deploying more police officers to provide security and prevent further stripping of the mine.
According to the Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Richard Musukwa, police officers have been deployed in strategic places like control rooms and camp chambers to prevent further sabotage of the mine.
While this is commendable, the larger responsibility lies on the workers themselves to safeguard their source of bread and butter.
Employees spend their time at the mine and should therefore be watchful to ensure that no-one strips the assets.
Actually, given that employees know the systems and every corner of the mine, they are better placed to keep a watchful eye on the assets.
Workers should be patriotic to safeguard the mine not only for themselves but future generations.
Employees should look at the bigger picture and not allow themselves to be used by outsiders to strip the mine assets.
It is them who will end up losing out if the mine is paralysed through stripping of assets or sabotaging operations.
Police should not relent until they bring the saboteurs and their accomplices to book.
It is also somewhat f a relief that the smelter was not in immediate use as concentrates were still being awaited, but this respite is outweighed by the gross threat of crippling operations.
This is no matter to be treated with kid’s gloves. Let there be firm decisions and action.

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