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Zambia: Mines urged to ensure safety of workers and communities after ‘sulphur dioxide leak’ and mining plant

‘Mines should prioritise health, safety’ 16 November 2019

WE ARE deeply concerned about the incident that happened yesterday when over 200 pupils at Nchanga Trust Secondary School and 43 miners at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Chingola were admitted to hospital after being choked by a cocktail of unknown gases emitted from an acid plant at Nchanga Mine. According to reports from the scene, the mine plant was on Thursday around 19:00 hours shut down temporarily following power disruption.

Due to congestion, 53 miners who had suffocated in the night were evacuated to Konkola Mine Hospital in Chililabombwe. Whereas it is comforting that the Grade 12 pupils were treated and discharged and allowed to sit for the examinations, which started two hours later, it is worth noting that the traumatic experience they went through could affect their performance in the examinations. While we are also happy that there was no loss of life and the affected pupils and miners are in a stable condition, the incident raises serious concerns about occupational health and safety at the mines.

… It is hoped that thorough investigations will be conducted to establish what really transpired at Nchanga Mine to avoid any such re-occurrence. As the affected pupils go back to school and miners to their work station, it is important to make sure that the premises are safe for them to operate from. Needless to say lessons must be drawn that mining companies cannot afford to leave any stone unturned in ensuring environmental and occupational health and safety.

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