Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Paul Kabuswe has vowed not to close operations at the Black Mountain amid stakeholders concerns relating to safety and health.
Several stakeholders in Kitwe including City Mayor Mpasa Mwaya have called for the suspension of operations at the mineral rich slag dump owing to frequent disregard for road safety, occupational health and environmental regulations.
Ms. Mwaya had said halting operations at the Black Mountain would enable operators to address concerns over poor safety, occupational health and environmental regulations.
Just last week an 18 year old Chrome Picker at the Black Mountain died on the spot after a rear left tyre of a loaded Shacman Tipper Truck ran over him in Kitwe when he fell from the truck which was moving from the Black Mountain to one of the identified sites for chrome pickers.
A number of chrome pickers have been injured and admitted to Kitwe Teaching Hospital (KTH) after being run over by Tipper trucks as they tried to jump on the moving trucks so that they pick up the chrome before it is offloaded to the four identified sites.
But speaking during the launch of the Black Mountain Community Empowerment Programme on Saturday in Kitwe, Mr. Kabuswe expressed his displeasure that some people are issuing negative comments over Black Mountain operations.
Mr. Kabuswe, the Chililabombwe Member of Parliament, said the New Dawn government meant well when deciding to empower citizens with a portion of the slag dump.
He said some people have embarked on a campaign to discredit the Black Mountain empowerment and are linking any negative event in Kitwe to the operations.
“This has never happened before but look at this President Hakainde Hichilema. We have just worked for a month at the Black Mountain and the little that we have gained we say can we share. In this vain I want to warn those that want to bring confusion and disturb that Programme at the Black Mountain. I want to tell you that this programme is going to succeed. As government we are determined. We know people keep inciting others. Balechitafye konse akachitika mu Kitwe ati tubepeshe Black Mountain pakuti Kabuswe akese chisala. Nshakesale,” Mr. Kabuswe said.
The government officially handed over 30 % of the Kitwe Mineral Slag Dump commonly known as Black Mountain to cooperatives owned by the local youth and women last February.
The Black Mountain located between Wusakile and Nkana West is owned by Nkana Alloy, who are the major shareholders with the Government having a minor stake.
President Hakainde Hichilema earlier in February announced the handover of the Black Mountain to a Consortium of cooperatives representing all the 10 districts of the Copperbelt province, the Women in mining group, and the Community hosting the black mountain.
Meanwhile, Kitwe District Commissioner Lawrence Mwanza said his office was committed to ensuring that money from the Black Mountain operations equitably benefit the Copperbelt community.
“My office is putting up measures to ensure that this programme is upscaled to all the districts of the Copperbelt to ensure equitable benefits of the Black Mountain resource to the Copperbelt community,” Mr. Mwanza said.
Black Mountain Consortium spokesperson Kangwa Kamando said operations at the mine site are benefiting more people.
Mr. Kamando, the United Party for National Development (UPND) Copperbelt Youth Chairman, said the consortium is determined to work for the Zambian people and ensure that every Zambian benefits from the Black Mountain.
“We are determined to work for the Zambian people and ensure that every Zambian benefits from the proceeds of the Black Mountain,” Mr. Kamando said.
Meanwhile, activist and healthy expert James Musonda has become the latest person to urge the government to immediately suspend operations at the black mountain after a death was recorded on Thursday.
Dr. Musonda says it is embarrassing that the black mountain empowerment has started recording deaths despite government assuring stakeholders that operations are safe.
Dr. Musonda has told Phoenix News that operations at the facility were rushed without adequate safety measures put in place and is suggesting that the black mountain be sold.
He warned that the new dawn administration will not bring sanity to the mining sector by refusing to heed to advice from numerous stakeholders to halt operations immediately.