About 40 KCM employees and hundreds of people including exam pupils at Nchanga Trust Secondary School have been evacuated to Nchanga South Mine Hospital in Chingola after inhaling toxic gas from an acid spillage at Konkola Copper Mines.

According to employee witnesses, the Acid Plant under smelter at Nchanga Mine developed an electric fault, Thursday around 18:25 hours, thereby causing the Sulphuric acid to escape from the converter.

“The acid plant under smelter experienced an electric surge around 18:25 hours yesterday. This resulted in the plant converter to go off, and upon restoring power and switching on the acid plant, the sulphuric acid escaped from the converter, thereby affecting much of the plant areas including Nchanga Underground and surrounding areas,”said the source.

“By 23:00 hours, the surface air quality was compromised, polluting the atmosphere and causing running noses, eye irritation and difficulty in breathing among other symptoms. Nchanga Open Pit has evacuated about 40 employees to hospital and they have been admitted for observation.

A hospital source told News Diggers that all pupils, including exam classes at Nchanga Trust School have been evacuated to hospital this morning after they inhaled the toxic gas.

“All the Pupils from the Nchanga Trust secondary school have been evacuated to Nchanga south Mine hospital for treatment and observation. Those affected include Examination classes. The hospital has been overwhelmed as the number of pupils being brought in for treatment after gas exposure keeps swelling,”said a hospital source who opted for anonymity.

According to KCM sources, the problem started a few weeks ago as a result of frequent power failure.

“The problem at the Plant started a couple of weeks ago after major maintenance (boiler leak repair), stabilisation affected due to frequent power failures resulting in low temperature in conversion and higher stack emission. The plant was producing 360tpd,” said a KCM technician.