(By Darious Kapembwa and Charles Tembo)
MOPANI Copper Mines has suspended operations at its Mindola Shaft in Kitwe after three miners died from underground fire on Thursday.
Three miners died after a loader caught fire underground sending panic in the workforce.
A police source said the accident happened at 1380 Metre Level around and named the deceased as Tom Kamanga, Mine No 224722, an Artisan of house No T54 Wusakile Township, Kitwe; Barthlomew Mwamba, Mine No 224736, an Artisan electrician of House No D4-186 Wusakile Township; and Ray Mungo, Mine No 223338, an Artisan of Plot No 2433, New Ndeke Township Kitwe.
The source said the trio died of suffocation due to the smoke from the Opermin Loader, which caught fire at the said level as it went for refueling.
“Male Mumba Francis, Mine No 224276, aged 29, NRC No.439423/67/1, an Artisan of Chimwemwe Township, Kitwe, survived the inferno after he escaped through the flame and sustained facial burns. He has since been admitted to Wusakile Mine Hospital. All the three bodies are in Wusakile mine Hospital Mortuary after being certified dead by Government Doctors at Kitwe Central Hospital,” said the source.
Mopani public relations manager Nebert Mulenga announced in a media statement that the Mine Safety Department and experts were investigating the cause of the fire leading to the fatalities.
“It is with deep regret that Mopani Copper Mines Plc confirms an incident of a fatal underground fire at Mindola North Shaft in Kitwe on Thursday, 7 February 2019 at 13.45 hours. Tragically, the lives of three employees were lost after a loader caught fire,” Mulenga stated.
However, Mulenga could not indicate how long the shutdown would last.
“Mopani Copper Mines Plc is working closely with the Mine Safety Department and other relevant authorities to inform the next of kin of the deceased employees and to investigate this tragic accident. All operations at Mindola North have been suspended until further notice. Mopani Copper Mines Plc management expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the three employees and their colleagues and will be providing them with the necessary support during this difficult time,” stated Mulenga.