June 20, 2018 / 11:38 AM / 2 months ago

Ten killed in collapse at Zambian copper mining dump

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Ten people were killed and another 10 injured when a Zambian dump for copper mining waste collapsed on Wednesday, police said.

Informal “artisanal” miners have taken to re-excavating copper and other metals from the Black Mountain waste site in the town of Kitwe in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province.

In February the government’s mining investment arm gave a 10 percent stake in Black Mountain to such small-scale miners.

“The incident happened this morning and at least 10 people have been confirmed dead,” Copperbelt police chief Charity Katanga said by phone from Kitwe, 400 km (250 miles) north of the capital Lusaka.

The main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) said the deaths could have been avoided.

“This was a disaster waiting to happen. A lot of people have expressed concern about poor safety at the site but the minister of mines insisted it was safe,” said UPND spokesman Charles Kakoma.

The government said it would investigate the incident.

“It’s premature and unhelpful at this stage to apportion blame. The president (Edgar Lungu) has sent the minister of mines to get to the ground and establish what happened and ensure enhanced safety measures,” presidential spokesman Amos Chanda said.

Zambia is Africa’s second largest copper producer. Poverty fuels small-scale and illegal mining and enforcement of safety standards is poor.

Global mining companies including First Quantum Minerals, Vedanta, Barrick Gold Corp and Glencore operate in the country.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Roche

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