KONKOLA Copper Mine workers in Chingola say there will be serious revolt if government goes ahead and give the mine to the Chinese. And the Mineworkers Union of Zambia has continued to oppose Chinese takeover of KCM, citing exploitation of workers by other Chinese mining firms. But mines minister Richard Musukwa says regardless any court outcome, the decision to chase away Vedanta is final and impossible to reverse.
According to KCM workers, a group of Chinese has continued to visit the mine and taking over key departments.
“What is happening here is now a source of concern. I think the decision is made and it’s the Chinese to take over. But our revolt is serious because these guys (Chinese) don’t know how to pay good salaries, give contracts to local contractors and suppliers. We have seen this in Chambeshi. We just don’t understand why our government has opted for the Chinese,” the workers said. “We don’t know what deals government has with the Chinese that everything now should be in the hands of China. If government can look for a better investor than Chinese, we will be very happy. But it seems a deal is done.”
The workers also said there was a lot of looting of KCM assets.
“It is to get what you can for now. We don’t know our future here. You see my brother, KCM was paying good salaries despite their shortcomings. But a miner under the Chinese, I can tell you, the highest will be [paid] K3,000. Now in this economy, what will that mean? We are preparing for serious poverty levels here in Chingola. That is why the workers are trying by any means to salvage any asset that can keep them afloat,” said the workers.
And MUZ has maintained that a Chinese investor was not good for KCM. MUZ general secretary George Mumba said the Chinese had been the worst employers in the mining sector.
“We don’t want a Chinese investor at KCM because the 21 years we have worked with them at NFCA have not been impressive. Their conditions of service for the workers are poor and they don’t give reasonable contracts to local contractors,” Mumba said.
Government has gone ahead to invite bids from prospecting investors, putting the Chinese firm, CNMC, as favourite to take over Vedanta’s investment. Musukwa when reached for comment said the process was on going and government would follow the law.
Vedanta Resources has gone for arbitration in South Africa pursuant to the KCM sale agreement.