A labour dispute has occurred at a Chinese-run coal mine in Zambia where violence erupted in 2010, this time leaving one Chinese person dead and several others injured.
On August 4, hundreds of workers at Collum Coal Mining Industries Ltd in southern Zambia
protested over a pay dispute. During the conflict, one Chinese supervisor was killed and four other Chinese people were hurt. Two Zambian workers were also hurt.
The Chinese embassy said that at noon on August 4 more than 300 miners attacked Chinese workers. Five Chinese employees hid in a tunnel, but miners hit them with stones and shoved a trolley in their direction. Wu Shengzai, a 51-year-old from Jiangxi Province, was killed when the trolley struck him.
By the evening of August 6, police had arrested 12 suspects. Reuters reported that one person will be charged with murder and 11 others with rioting and theft. They will appear in court on August 8. Police were looking for three other men suspected of involvement in the death.
In July, the Zambia government issued a policy that increased the minimum wage for workers to $ 200 per month from around $ 100. Workers at the Collum mine were paid an average $ 150 per month, a Zambian union official said.
Joseph Chewe, general secretary of the Mineworkers Union of Zambia, said that the colliery’s management had negotiated a pay rise before the August 4 incident, but did not provide figures of the agreement. “It will soon be put into practice,” he said.
The union condemned the violence and wanted to see the case handled according to the law, Chewe said. “As a union, we expect employees to co-exist with the investors,” he said.
The Chinese embassy demanded a thorough investigation. It also called for measures to guarantee the safety of Chinese companies and workers.
Zambia’s labour minister, Fackson Shamenda, said the government would severely punish those found guilty and ensure the safety of the mine. “I don’t understand why there is always tension between Chinese investors and workers at Collum,” he said.
In October 2010, Chinese managers opened fire during a labour dispute and 13 Zambian miners were injured. Police charged two Chinese with attempted murder, but the charges were dropped.
The privately owned mine has operated for more than a decade. Its annual production capacity is 100,000 tonnes.