By Nchimunya Miyoba in Kitwe
Ten (10) illegal miners popularly known as jerabos have died while eight have been left seriously injured after the ground they were quarrying in buried them all alive.
The ground has been weak at the Black Mountain where the fatality happened and a fortnight ago the ground collapsed but no life was lost.
Mines Minister Richard Musukwa was quoted in the media saying there was no pending disaster at the Black Mountain.
Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga has confirmed the death of 10 people at the Black Mountain and that eight were left seriously injured.
Ms Katanga said the accident happened this morning when excavator operating on top of the slag dump led to the caving in of the ground thereby burying the victims alive.
“Out of the 10 victims, five of them have been identified by their relatives. I appeal to the members of the public to come forward and help the police to identify the remaining five,” she said
Ms Katanga could however not state the total number of jerabos that were operating at the slug dump at the time of the accident.
She said rescue operation was still going on to ensure that no body was left unrecovered but hinted that the number of victims might increase.
At the hospital, Kitwe Teaching Hospital Acting Senior Medical Superintendent Chileshe Mboni said out of the eight currently admitted in hospital, two are seriously injured and are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Dr Mboni said the two admitted in ICU had serious head injuries while the rest were stable and had been transferred to Zambezi male surgical ward.
And Copperbelt Province Permanent Secretary Bright Nundwe who rushed to the scene proposed that mining operations should not proceed on the Black Mountain until all safety regulations had been put into place to avoid further loss of life.
Mr Nundwe said Government wants to see order on the slag dump.
He has since called on all jerabos and mining companies operating on the slug dump to adhere to the lay down procedures.
“As Government we don’t want to see any person or company operating on the slug dump without a firm document that will have all the safety issues addressed.
“Government gave the 10 per cent of the black mountain to the youths as a way of empowering them due to the lack of employment in the province. Government does not find pleasure in loosing life especially if it affects the young people,” he said.
Meanwhile Patriotic Front (PF) Secretary General Davies Mwila has called for safer mining practices and adherence to at the advice being rendered by mining experts.
“As the nation would be aware, PF manifesto 2016-2021 centres on empowering citizens and encourages direct access to mineral resources and wealth creation while insisting on use of safer mining practices.
“PF’s greatest desire is for the small-Scale miners, majority of whom are youths, could partner with large mining technology management firms to enable them extract the minerals in more safer and efficient environments”, he said.
Mr Mwila said PF has received the news of the accident which has claimed ten lives with profound grief.
“PF wishes to send a message of condolences to the families of the victims following the tragic loss of miners’ lives in an accident at the Black Mountain site this morning. It is with profound grief that we, in the ruling Patriotic Front received the news of the tragic accident which resulted in the loss of several lives and we are fearing for the lives of those that could have been seriously injured following the accident,” he said.