Saturday, January 30, 2010
By Mwila Chansa
Sat 30 Jan. 2010, 04:01 CAT
ABOUT 300 miners were in the early hours of yesterday morning allegedly gassed underground at the Chinese-run NFC mine in Chambishi. But Kalulushi district commissioner Joshua Mtisa refuted reports that 300 miners were gassed, claiming that there were only 17.
National Union of Miners and Allied Workers (NUMAW) national secretary Goodwell Kaluba said the union was concerned about the lives of its members following the incident at the mine.
Speaking to journalists at Sinozam Friendship Hospital in Kitwe where the miners were rushed after allegedly being gassed around 02:00 hours in the morning, Kaluba said the safety standards at NFC mining in the last few months had been compromised.
“As a union, we are very afraid for the lives of workers. We will not sit by and watch this because at the end of the day, we might have another BIGRIMM,” Kaluba said.
“Safety in the last few months has been compromised because they have been having accidents and that is regrettable. There is no company that has accidents every month.”
Kaluba urged the government to work hand-in-hand with the union in ensuring safety standards at the mine were adhered to. He said if it meant suspending operations, that should be done as long as safety measures were first put in place. He explained that the gassing which is believed to have been caused by burnt cables started at level 300 underground.
“So when the miners started calling the cage tender, he failed to send the cage down for fear of being suffocated so after the miners insisted, that is when he brought the cage down," he explained.
"After taking the cage down, they decided to go to level 400 because there were more people there but they managed to get out all of them."
Kaluba said there were no serious injuries and the miners were quickly rushed to Sinozam Hospital where they were observed and discharged.
By mid-morning, nine of the miners were waiting to be observed while one was still kept for observations.
But Mtisa said only 17 people were rushed to hospital and not 300 as reported.
However, Mtisa said he had not yet had a word with management at the mine.