Zambia revokes license for Chinese-owned coal mine

Zambia voided Wednesday the mining license for Collum, a controversial Chinese-owned coal mine in the south of the country, where workers rioted in November and killed one of the foreign managers.

The measure, announced by Mining minister Yamfwa Mukanga, comes in response to violations of safety and environmental laws and a failure to pay mineral royalties, reports Bloomberg.

Zambia is one of the largest recipients of Chinese investment in Africa, but relations between the two nations have been edgy because of —at times— deadly protests against the foreign companies and their management practices.

Chinese-run copper mines in Zambia are said to routinely mistreat workers and break the law by imposing up to 18-hour shifts and flouting international health and safety standards, as exposed by a Human Rights Watch November 2011 report, "You'll Be Fired if You Refuse: Labour Abuses in Zambia's Chinese State-owned Copper Mines."

Back in 2006, a mine visit caused a Zambian government minister to cry on television saying workers were “kicked and beaten as though they are not human beings."

In 2010, Chinese managers shot at demonstrating workers, but no actions were taken and charges against the alleged perpetrators were quickly dropped.

Last August Zambian strikers killed a Chinese supervisor during a protest over pay.

While in opposition, current President Michael Sata was a fierce critic of Chinese investment practices. After taking office in 2011, he promised he would improve working conditions at mines as well as ensure a bigger share of mining profits for Zambians.

Collum mine’s closure, believe analysts, should help reduce anti-Chinese sentiment in the African nation, but it would probably won’t help the overall state of Zambia China relations.

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