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Project May 15, 2013

China's Bloody Frontier in Zambia


Image by Deanna Dent. Southern Province, Zambia, 2013.

The Chinese invest all over Africa, but at a Chinese-owned mine in Zambia, their relationship with Africans has reached a breaking point.

Chinese-run copper mines in Zambia are hazardous and owners violate the rights of their workers, according to a recent human rights report.

When local workers at Collum Coal Mine protested poor working conditions in 2010, their Chinese managers responded by opening fire with live rounds. Thirteen miners were wounded. Zambia never pressed charges against the managers.

In late 2012, protests at Collum continued, spurred by the fact that employees are paid less than the national minimum wage. This past fall, scores of rioting miners crushed a 50-year-old Chinese manager to death with a trolley. Two other Chinese managers were critically injured.

Zambia's current president, Michael Sata, won election in 2011 partly thanks to anti-Chinese sentiment, calling salaries at mines "slave wages" and threatening to deport Chinese investors ignoring Zambian labor laws. Still, Chinese companies have invested about $2 billion in Zambia, mainly in the mining and manufacturing sectors, and created thousands of local jobs.

This project will investigate the downward spiral of events between the Chinese and Zambians at Collum Mine, and what it may mean for the future of the relationship between China and Africa.
Updated on 06/18/13.