Editor's Comment

Protect the miners

SAFETY issues in the mining sector in Zambia will always arise each time there is an accident, especially one in which miners lose lives.
This is so yet again, with the latest accident at Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) where two miners working for Reliant Drilling Company have died at SOB shaft in Kitwe.
Chrispin Mwaba, 29, a boomer operator, and Mr Ackleoh Musumali, 42, a mine captain, are the latest victims.
MCM is on the spot again because last month, three miners died at Mindola North Shaft following an accident caused by a fire underground.
The accident was caused by a loader which caught fire.
Just like last month’s accident, the death of the two miners is yet another reminder that there is need for much more to be done to improve safety not only at MCM but at all other mines and workplaces.
After the last accident that claimed the lives of three miners, the nation was assured that MCM Plc was working closely with the Mine Safety Department (MSD) to investigate the tragic accident.
One month down the line, the mining community in particular and the country in general is in mourning again and wondering if enough was done or is being done to ensure the safety of the miners.
What is worrying is that the latest accident is apparently an operational lapse which should have been avoided.
As long as such lapses are not taken care of, the risks will remain high and there will be a cadre of miners and their relatives who will constantly be anxious about going underground for work.
It has now become imperative for all contractors to be thoroughly screened by the MSD before authorising their clearance with Government. If this is already being done, much more has to be done.
It may help minimise such occurrences and save lives.
Mine accidents have both direct and indirect consequences to contractors, miners, mining community and the economy.
Indirect costs to workers and their families include fear.
This fear by miners and their families culminates into stress as they ponder to return to work each day because they think they may be the next victims of accidents.
They may in turn lead to absenteeism.
Stress may manifest in symptoms which cannot be visible physically but may have a toll on their mental faculties and may also lead to behavioural change towards work as some may slip into depression.
Anxiety cannot be ruled out among MCM miners which may lead to anger following the death of their colleagues.
Copper is the goose which lays the country’s golden eggs. When an accident occurs, production stagnates due to loss of time, which translates into loss of money.
Mine accidents cost the country not just through loss of lives of the workers, but also time and reputation for the employer, in this case Reliant Drilling Company.
For MCM, the impact is adverse reputation and loss of revenue and of course the country too loses income that would otherwise be collected through taxes.
MCM and all other mining companies should aspire to minimise occupational accidents, especially in this era of technological advancements.
It should be the wish of every mining company in Zambia to aim for zero accidents, an objective that the Workers Compensation Fund Control Board is implementing and must be taken seriously by all employers.
The Mufulira mine accident of 1970 in which 89 miners were killed was and remains the worst ever in the country.
Zambia surely wouldn’t want another of such accidents before the country is stirred to appropriate action.
The loss of one life is one life too many. Any accident, even one in which no one dies, should be enough reason for all stakeholders to walk the talk of finding solutions.
Understandably, accidents are bound to happen as they do in all other occupations, but clearly most of them can be avoided if preventive measures are adhered to.
We know that most reputable mines have very good safety measures in place. The question is, is everyone strictly adhering to them? We, like many other Zambians, are beginning to doubt that this is so.
Someone has to be held accountable for this.

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