Trade relations between China and Zambia took off in the 2000’s. Among Chinese businesses in Zambia are large enterprises in mining and infrastructure, but also small businesses. At the start, of business between the two countries a family of Chinese chicken farmers established a series of farms in Zambia. It was an extraordinary opportunity to allow China to make a bit of money raising chicken throughout Zambia. As the years continued on China realized the potential soil that Zambia has for mines. Chinese mining has had unfavorable consequences in Zambia including illness among the population, destruction of the land, and chaos between countries. Despite these negative effects, today Zambia is a leading exporter of copper and coal, and Chinese investment in the mining sector has been considerable.
China has invested more than two billion dollars in the Zambian Mining industry. However, the Zambian government has taken over many of the Chinese-owned coal mines because the Zambian government feared for their safety of the workers. The mines had poor safety, health and environmental record; and did not have emergency medical treatment facilities such as ambulances or first-aid stations underground. They are not prepared. The mines in question have been controversial. Over the past year the Zambian government has cancelled three licenses held by Collum Coal Mine. “The government has taken over the running of the mines and will continue operating them until a suitable investor is found.” (Mukanga) Even though Chinese companies have invested more than two billion dollars in copper-rich Zambia, there have been signs that animosity towards them may be growing as some Zambian workers accuse companies of abuses and low pay. The Chinese companies had failed to pay the people and properly declare how much coal was produced. Collum Coal Mine has also failed to declare its mineral production as required for all mining companies under the Zambian Law. The mines have a history of poor safety, health and environmental compliance, mainly due to the employment of non-qualified personal. “In some instances the entire mine has been closed to allow the mine management to comply with mine safety department directives, but there has been no improvement.” (Mukanga) The budget was increased for the Mines Safety Department and resulted in the potential to hire additional safety inspectors is a very positive development. The Zambian government needs to ensure that the department consistently receives the money earmarked for it at the time it is required.
Working in the copper mines, many are threatened with dismissal if they become involved in union activities. They are to stay focused on mining. Copper mining is one of Zambia’s main industries, providing nearly three-quarters of the country’s exports, and many of the mining companies are foreign owned. In Chinese mines specifically, miners are to work twelve hour shifts often in fume-filled tunnels. Most shifts are eighteen hours, but Zambian law limits shifts to eight. Despite improvements in recent years, safety and labor conditions at Chinese mines are worse than at other foreign-owned mines. Many of the poor safety practices in Zambia’s Chinese-run mines are very similar to abuses at mines in China. According to Beijing, China has created more than fifty thousand jobs in Zambia. Mine workers often have to buy their own safety equipment; if Zambian workers want to be safe on the job, it comes out of their personal paycheck. “Collum Coal Mine has failed to consistently provide employees with approve personal protective equipment.” (Mukanga)
The long road leading up to the mine in the southern rural district of Sinazongwe is covered in black coal dust, but otherwise there is no hint that the twenty first century has reached this area. This is what has angered the workers. Who feel that while the Chinese benefit from the mine and live comfortably, they remain in…