Zambia revokes Chinese mine licences on poor safety

LUSAKA Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:22am EST

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LUSAKA Feb 20 (Reuters) - Zambia has revoked licences for a Chinese-owned coal mine over poor safety and environmental compliance, as well as a failure to pay mineral royalties, the minister of mines said on Wednesday.

Yamfwa Mukanga said the government had cancelled all three mining licences held by Collum Coal mine, situated 325km (200 miles) south of the capital Lusaka.

"The government has also taken over the running of the mines and will continue operating them until a suitable investor is found," Mukanga said in a statement.

Chinese companies have invested more than $1 billion in copper-rich Zambia, but there have been some signs that animosity towards them may by growing as some Zambian workers accuse companies of abuses and underpaying.

Zambian police last August charged a miner with the murder of a Chinese supervisor and 11 others with rioting and theft during a protest over pay at the Collum Coal mine.

Mukanga said the mine had a history of poor safety, health and environmental compliance, mainly due to the employment of non-qualified personnel.

"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," he said.

The mine did not have emergency medical treatment facilities such as ambulances or a first-aid station underground, he added.

Collum Coal Mine had also failed to declare its mineral production as required for all mining companies under Zambian law. (Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by David Holmes)

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