Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) are experiencing frequent and fatal mining accidents because they are not complying with the proper laid down safety procedure, says Mines Minister Richard Musukwa.

And Musukwa has warned KCM to immediately settle its outstanding dues to suppliers and contractors because the company’s inability to pay workers is creating a lot of despondence.

Meanwhile, Musukwa has disagreed with Roan PF member of parliament Chishimba Kambwili who recently suggested that KCM must be sent way for failure to provide safety at one of the country’s biggest mines, arguing that there were a lot of ways to settle disputes than chasing investors away.

Speaking to News Diggers! in an interview, Musukwa said the ongoing accidents at KCM which had usually been fatal was a growing concern and that government was getting apprehensive about the situation, warning that an immediate solution must soon be found.

“We have appointed a team of experts who should provide over site for the mining operations in terms of safety. What we have told KCM and other mining houses is that safety is our priority and it must never at any time be compromised at the expense of production. We have also told our workers across the country and especially on the Copperbelt and beyond that any operation which is not safe must never be undertaken. In fact, if there is any disobedience a worker is able to show, it’s in the area of safety. Once they are certain that a work space is not safe, it must not be undertaken. So it’s a two way process, the workers and the company. In the quest to enhance and grow production, workers must not be a sacrificial lamb. So safety must be prioritised, so we are speaking to KCM teams to ensure that safety is put in place,” Musukwa revealed.

“You know most of the operations for KCM have been outsourced and these accidents are happening at an out-sourced plant. Therefore, KCM must re-orient the outsourced operations in terms of safety and take full responsibility as regards the issues of safety. So any accident that happens is as a result of non compliance to the laid down safety procedures and we would like to ensure that there is total adherence to laid down safety procedures by all outsourced operations. KCM must provide over site because they are the license holders. KCM is answerable in terms of any operation faults at their sites. So according to our experts, the accidents that have happened, that have unfortunately resulted in the loss of lives, which is not supposed to happen is as a result of non compliance of all laid down safety procedures in the mining operations.”

And Mukusukwa argued that chasing KCM away from the country was not a good solution for the company which is one of the largest mining employers.

“As government, our role is to ensure that we provide a conducive environment in which investors have to operate. So honourable Kambwili who is our own PF member of parliament for Roan constituency, who is the prodigal son of the PF, knows how government operates and he just speaks for political expedience and we really think that we don’t need to waste our time responding to his rantings, most of which are misplaced. Honourable Kambwili himself was a minister and he knows how these things work, it’s not sitting on an anthill. For us as government, what we have done is that we have closed in in terms of operations at KCM to monitor and see how best KCM can provide over site in terms of its operations regarding safety.”

Meanwhile, Musukwa also warned KCM to immediately look for funds to pay its outstanding arrears to suppliers and contractors.

“KCM must mobilise resources and pay contractors and suppliers so that our towns Chingola, Chililabombwe and Kitwe will not be ghost towns as a result of KCM. KCM should not use VAT refund as an excuse for failure to meet their contractual obligations in terms of contractors and suppliers. So We would like KCM to ensure that they liquidate their indebtedness to the workers, to the contractors and suppliers and obviously as government, if KCM is not showing signs that they are robust, government has many measures that we are able to take to ensure compliance and certainly. But the issue of chasing companies like KCM is not a priority of my government. We would like to engage and ensure that we create a win-win situation,” said Musukwa.

“As we speak, there is a lot of despondence amongst our people especially our contractors and suppliers in Chililabombwe, Chingola and Kitwe as a result of non payment of their dues by KCM. That is why we are urging KCM to ensure that they mobilise resources and pay our contractors and suppliers. So our big brother honourable Chishimba Kambwili can provide advise as he always does but he must choose proper forums and these are issues where you don’t express yourself emotionally. I know that he’s a contractor himself but these are issues that we must sober up and we must not make immediate decisions based on one matter, we must take a holistic approach. What we have said and have continued to say is that KCM is a growing concern and they must quickly ensure that they turn round the company because their inability to pay suppliers and contractors, their inability to pay salaries for some of their workers is creating a lot of despondence and as government, we are getting apprehensive about this kind of situation and we would like to ensure that an immediate solution is found.”