II. Health and Safety
Sometimes when you find yourself in a dangerous position, they tell you to go ahead with the work. They just consider production, not safety. If someone dies, he can be replaced tomorrow. And if you report the problem, you’ll lose your job.
—Underground miner at NFCA, November 2010
Copper mining carries serious health and safety risks in both the mining and processing operations. Underground copper mining is particularly dangerous, with at least 15 recorded fatalities in Zambia every year since 2001 and numerous other serious injuries and long-term health problems incurred. While accidents are not unique to the Chinese-owned mines, union officials, miners who had worked in Chinese and non-Chinese operations, and even government representatives who spoke to Human Rights Watch all said that the Chinese copper operations were the worst for health and safety conditions.
Miners from the Chinese-owned operations describe safety regulations that are routinely flouted. While the companies employ Zambian safety officers officially tasked with monitoring compliance with national safety procedures, they are given almost no authority; final decisions on whether to work in potentially dangerous areas rests with the manager, generally the Chinese manager, alone. Those who spoke with Human Rights Watch said Chinese bosses routinely force workers to continue in areas considered unsafe—under threat of being fired should the worker refuse—resulting in health problems and accidents. In order to hide the extent of the safety problems, several Chinese-run copper operations appear to deliberately underreport accidents; at times, they bribe workers—often without difficulty, given low salaries—not to report them.
The government’s Mines Safety Department, situated in the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development, is tasked with enforcing the country’s mining regulations. However, the department’s grossly inadequate staffing and funding as well as the very low fines that can be imposed—eliminating any real deterrent effect—have made the agency largely ineffective.
As discussed below, Zambia has not effectively enforced either domestic or international labor law in the Chinese-owned copper mines in Zambia. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) obliges states to ensure “[s]afe and healthy working conditions. International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 176 concerning Safety and Health in Mines sets out the basic obligations of states and employers regarding mine safety, as well as the rights and duties of workers and their unions.
Health and Safety Hazards
Workers throughout Zambia’s copper mining industry are exposed to a variety of health and safety hazards that lead to accidents, including fatal accidents, and long-term health consequences, particularly affecting their lungs. ILO Convention No. 176, as well as the related ILO Recommendation 183 concerning Safety and Health in Mines, was drafted specifically to deal with the risks that come with mining—with the goal “to prevent any fatalities, injuries or ill health affecting workers or members of the public.” While accidents and some health consequences are likely to occur even when companies follow—and governments enforce—safety regulations, the failure to take seriously health and safety precautions leads to far greater problems.
A nurse at Sino-Zam Friendship Hospital, where miners at the three Chinese-owned Chambishi operations receive free medical care, described the injuries she sees from NFCA miners:
Rock falls are the most frequent of the severe problems. They are at times fatal, or result in crushed bones. We’ve had to do traumatic amputations of fingers, for example…. There are other injuries from [chemical] gassing, also acid and electric burns. And then there are common problems when the concentrate dust shavings get in the miners’ eyes…. We also see general health problems from the contact with dust and fumes, due to poor ventilation. Pneumoconiosis [black lung] and particularly silicosis occur.
Underground miners likewise considered a rock fall the most dangerous event they faced. It occurs most often during blasting or drilling, when insufficient support has been created above or to the side of worksites. Accidents due to insufficient support can occur as a result of worker negligence or when mining bosses insist that workers continue past areas with sufficient support—so that production is not slowed for building new supports. Enormous rocks come crashing down during a rock fall, injuring and at times killing those caught underneath. Workers identified other fatalities as a result of electrocutions underground, though these occur far less frequently. At times, platforms on which workers are drilling or placing explosives, for example, can collapse, and workers suffer severe and even fatal injuries when plummeting. A worker died in one such accident at NFCA on December 30, 2010.
Among the less immediately dangerous sources of complaints at NFCA is the poor ventilation underground that can lead to both short-term and long-term health problems. ILO Convention No. 176 requires employers to take all necessary measures to ensure “adequate ventilation” underground. Recommendation 183 states that mines “should be ventilated in an appropriate manner to maintain an atmosphere … in which working conditions are adequate,” in accordance with applicable national and international standards on dust and gas.
An underground miner who works with explosives told Human Rights Watch:
The ventilation is very bad down there, as we drill deeper. There is lots of smoke, lots of dust, and yet we aren’t given respirators. We just have a dust mask. We all have lung problems. I inhale the stuff all the time, because they don’t give us a respirator; so my lungs and throat always hurt.
Another underground miner at NFCA, who worked with Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) until he was laid off during the 2008 global economic crisis, said that “some of the areas underground where we work would be off limits in other companies due to poor ventilation…. We can feel the lung problems already, even though our friends in other mines have been working for much longer. We know we’re at risk for health problems because of the conditions here.”
One miner interviewed by Human Rights Watch from the Mufulira mine operated by Mopani Copper Mines likewise complained about poor ventilation underground, saying, “Even with the safety equipment, we just breathe in dust. We can feel it in our lungs; I’ve had lots of problems. In some areas, they should improve the ventilation before we start work, but they don’t.” In a 2008 article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers took dust samples from Mopani’s two underground mines and found that “59% and 26% of Mufulira and Nkana Mine samples, respectively, were above the calculated U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration permissible exposure limit.” They concluded that “weak dust monitoring at these mines … may increase the risk of nonmalignant disease in many miners” and recommended that “Zambian mining houses and the government establish crystalline silica analysis laboratory capacity and adopt dust mass concentration occupational exposure limits for more protective dust monitoring of workers.” In response to a letter from Human Rights Watch outlining concerns, Mopani’s Chief Executive Officer David Callow said that the company takes the issue of silicosis “very seriously and is focused on reducing incidence” through measures including “improved localized dust management in work places”; programs raising employees’ awareness on “dust control and personal protective equipment usage”; implementing “personalized dust monitoring techniques” for Mopani employees working in high-exposure areas; and more frequent medical checkups. Mopani’s response continued:
Silicosis generally has a long latent period to manifest, which can be 20 years or more, so some of the benefits of [the company’s] focus since privatisation may not yet be apparent. Even still, incidence has been almost halved since privatisation. Progress in this area is monitored closely by Mopani’s board.
At the processing and smelting operations, miners work with acids and other noxious chemicals to separate the copper from the rock. Sulfuric acid is one of the most commonly used substances. As with underground miners, workers are also routinely exposed to dust, fumes, and other hazardous substances. In certain departments, often referred to as “hot metal” departments, miners work in environments of extreme heat. Fatal accidents are far less common in processing than in underground mining, but acid burns and lung disease, for example, can be common when companies do not comply with safety regulations.
To protect against problems associated with mining, ILO Convention No. 176 requires employers in mining operations to inform workers of the work’s hazards; to “take appropriate measures to eliminate or minimize risks resulting from exposure to those hazards”; to ensure “adequate protection against risk of accident or injury to health,” including through the provision and maintenance, at no cost, of personal protective equipment; and to provide first aid at the workplace as well as “access to appropriate medical facilities.” The biggest problems in the Chinese-owned mines are the second and third requirements, on minimizing risks and providing adequate protection. Rather than eliminating or minimizing the risks, Chinese mine owners and managers appear to increase the risks through threats against workers who would prioritize safety over production.
While these problems are discussed in more detail below, a doctor who had worked for more than a decade at the mine hospital for Luanshya Mine, which was owned and run by a Swiss-based investor until sold to CNMC in 2009, told Human Rights Watch:
The number of accidents under the Chinese has gone way up, we have seen this in the hospital. They’re not concerned about safety. There have been several fatal accidents since they took over, and we did not see many at all before them. I see lots of cases of crushed fingers as well, one just last week…. I can tell you from the hospital side, accidents are a major problem now. We see more than ever before. And most of these could be prevented if safety was prioritized. We need to sensitize the Chinese about the safety rules, about the labor laws, and they need to start following these.
To bring attention to potential safety hazards, daily safety talks among work units—at the beginning of each shift—are fairly standard across the copper mining industry. A miner at the tailings and leach plant was one of several KCM employees to underscore their importance: “The company emphasizes safety talks before the job. These are done within our sections, for about five minutes in every shift before we start. Everyone takes part, and we talk about the dangers. These have reduced the number of accidents.” Miners at Mopani and Kansanshi likewise mentioned daily safety talks in various departments.
A national-level official at the Mineworkers Union of Zambia told Human Rights Watch that there was a stark difference at NFCA in particular: “Most companies take safety talks seriously. This goes back to the days of ZCCM, they have been standard since. NFCA is the big exception.” Miners at NFCA told Human Rights Watch that safety talks had been introduced in early 2011—showing, as elsewhere, that there have been improvements among the Chinese-run companies—but one underground miner cited a remaining problem echoed by others:
The Chinese are never there for the safety talks, it’s just the Zambians.Even when you have a Chinese manager, when he makes the decisions underground, he doesn’t take part. Only the Zambian manager, who has no real authority, leads the morning safety talk.
The result, as stated by an underground mine truck operator, is that“what we hear during the safety talk and what they do underground is very different.”
In a letter from China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation (CNMC) in response to the main findings in this report, NFCA acknowledged that it had come under “repeated criticisms” from Zambian government departments including the Mines Safety Department. It blamed the failure of the Chinese subcontractor who does underground mining at NFCA to register “as an independent legal entity in Zambia,” but said that this had been rectified for 2011 to 2013. NFCA also faulted “language and cultural differences during communication and interaction” with employees, which it said “could have possibly resulted in misunderstandings about the actual state of affairs.” NFCA finally stressed that it had “supplemented and improved its measures” related to worker safety and protective equipment, including through new regulations implemented on January 1, 2011. As this report makes clear, miners interviewed by Human Rights Watch acknowledged that the situation is much improved from when NFCA started operations. However, the safety practices remain substandard both in relation to labor law and to other multinationals operating in Zambia’s copper industry.
Failure to Provide Potable Water
Workers at several Chinese mining operations in Zambia complained that there was no drinking water available to them, despite working in hot and dusty environments. Since breaks are not allowed—or feasible, in terms of underground operations—workers described going an entire day in these environments without potable water, compounding heath impacts. Zambia’s Employment Act requires “[e]very employer [to] ensure that there is at the place of employment an adequate supply of drinking water for the use of his employees.” ILO Recommendation 183 likewise states that “employers should, where appropriate, provide and maintain at no cost to the worker … adequate supplies of potable drinking-water.”
A worker in Sino Metals tailings plant contrasted the reality there:
There is no domestic water in tailings, which is not normal. There are more than 200 of us that work there and yet no water. There wasn’t even a toilet for a long time. Just in the last couple months they’ve installed two toilets. In the crusher plant, there is also no water, no toilet. The only place with domestic water is the SX facility…. For the rest of us, we suffer. We’re dealing with chemicals and dust all day, and we have nothing to drink.
Another worker at Sino Metals said that the only water was for industrial use, not even for assisting in removing the dust from the environment. He said that the union had tried to raise the issue, but the Chinese management had been unresponsive.
At NFCA, an underground miner said that his partner became so thirsty that he drank from the industrial water, for which he was physically assaulted by the Chinese manager:
We were deep underground, and it was hot. There’s no water for us down there. My partner was exhausted and opened some of the mining water to refresh, to cool down. And when the boss saw that, he beat him. He punched him and beat him with a tool that was in his hand. It was reported to the police, but the Chinese guy is still working, nothing has been done.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
While there has been progress since when they first started mining in Zambia, the Chinese operations—NFCA underground mining, Sino Metals, and Chambishi Copper Smelter in particular—frequently fail to provide prompt replacement of “personal protective equipment” to employees. All too often, this leads directly to unnecessary workplace accidents and health consequences. In contrast to the practices at the Chinese-run copper mines, miners interviewed from the other multinational companies—specifically, Mopani Copper Mines, Konkola Copper Mines, and Kansanshi—said their companies have a standard procedure in which they were able to obtain a replacement when their PPE was damaged during work (see text box, below, on “Best practices in the Copperbelt”).
ILO Convention No. 176 requires employers to “provide and maintain at no cost to the worker suitable protective equipment [and] clothing as necessary.”
Miners at the Chinese copper mining operations said that their employers had improved considerably at providing PPE since first starting work in Zambia. Until several years ago, the Chinese companies often did not provide any protective equipment; at best, workers might receive a few of the items they needed, as described by an underground miner at NFCA:
It was in 2008 and 2009 that the union really took up the issue of PPE, that the Chinese had to provide work suits and boots, hard hats, and the other necessary equipment. Before you were lucky to get a couple pieces, but you would never get close to what is required by the mining regulations. Those efforts in 2008 and 2009 paid off. But even though it’s better, we still face problems with PPE that don’t exist in other mines.
A worker in the Chinese-owned smelter, CCS, likewise said:
When we first started, the safety situation was very, very bad. They did not give us the required PPE. We worked with no equipment and were exposed to lots of problems. People were often burned from the acid…. The Mines Safety Department finally intervened after lots of complaints, and now we get leather suits, shoes for the smelter, leather gloves, and a face shield. It took lots of complaining. We were happy with the progress, but now we find ourselves again with PPE problems.
The “PPE problems” referenced by this worker were echoed by virtually every employee at the three Chambishi-based Chinese copper companies with whom Human Rights Watch spoke: the Chinese-run companies there refuse to issue replacement PPE, even when it is damaged during work; and also still fail to provide some protective equipment that is standard in other operations. Throughout the copper mining industry, there is a set “timeframe” for receiving new PPE; however, the Ministry of Mines permanent secretary made clear that under Zambian law—in addition to the ILO—companies are to replace PPE torn or damaged during work. Workers from other copper mining companies in Zambia told Human Rights Watch that their employers follow this regulation. According to the miners in the Chambishi companies, Chinese bosses tell workers that, no matter how damaged their equipment is, they must wait until the timeframe has elapsed or purchase their own replacement. A surface miner at NFCA explained:
For those on the surface, we are given attire for a year—that’s the timeframe. For boots, belt, hard hat, overalls, we get one for a full year. It’s supposed to be six months, which is what it is for the underground workers. And then if there is a premature defect [in the PPE], you can’t get a new one. No matter how bad, no matter if it happened during work use only, they won’t give a new one. Your salary is deducted…. So most people continue working with the damaged PPE.
A fork-life operator at Sino Metals expressed similarly:
If the PPE breaks down before the timeframe, you either have to continue working with the damaged equipment or you have to cover a new one on your own. If we turn in a broken PPE, and receive a new one, they deduct the cost from our earnings…. This is not what the safety regulations say, but the Chinese don’t care and our government does nothing.
Miners told Human Rights Watch that a good pair of gumboots, for example, cost 165,000 Kwacha (US$34), and work overalls cost around 78,000 Kwacha ($16). For many of those working in the Chinese-run mines, that would together comprise between one-fourth and one-half of their monthly basic salary—meaning most miners choose to work with defective equipment, rather than pay for new PPE themselves.
Human Rights Watch documented dozens of injuries and health problems across CCS, Sino Metals, and NFCA as a result of the companies’ failure to maintain PPE or provide all appropriate equipment. At CCS and Sino Metals, workers often described suffering acid burns as a result of management’s refusal to replace gloves, boots, and other PPE that had been torn or burned through by acid during the course of work. The failure to provide sufficiently protective equipment in the first place contributed to additional acid burns, as explained by a worker in the smelter at CCS:
I’ve been burned four times from acid splashes that come inside my clothes. The shield that we’re using is not good enough. It’s supposed to have a cloth that goes down completely to the chest, to not leave anywhere exposed; but this shield that they give us leaves our neck exposed. We’ve gone to management about this, but nothing has been done. They’ve just said that they’re giving us a shield, and we should be more careful.
It’s similar with the suits and gloves. The leather starts developing holes from the acid burning through. For each PPE, there’s a timeframe. Even if the protective equipment is worn out, or has had a hole burned through, the Chinese will say no if we ask for a new one—they say that we can get a new one when time expires. I’ve had acid splash on my hand where there was a hole in my glove…. It’s happened to others who work with me.
Miners, both at the copper processing operations and NFCA’s underground mine, also complained to Human Rights Watch of recurring lung problems as a result of defective respirators or the failure to provide a respirator. A miner at Sino Metals said:
I work in the copper tank house, where I’m exposed to a lot of fumes. Doctors I’ve spoken to say that it’s dangerous.… [The company] provides a [cotton cloth] mouth pad for us—not even a respirator like the ones other mines bring in from South Africa. It’s just a cloth pad like a doctor uses, and the timeframe is two months, which is no good. Working in there, with all the fumes, it gets damaged in a week. You can tell the difference, you start coughing. If you take a broken one to the safety officer, he doesn’t do his job. He says to wait two months and he’ll give you a new one…. For gumboots, it’s four months; for overalls, six months. No matter if they’re damaged because of work, you can’t get a new one.
I’ve had chest problems a few times. I went to the hospital, and they did an X-ray; the doctor said I had these things stuck to my lungs. He gave me medicines, and it’s gotten better, but I can still feel pain sometimes. It’s even worse for others. For some of the people in my group, I see them coughing blood and other things…. I worry that it will happen to me next. The Chinese just don’t care. They don’t care about accidents. They prefer that the job gets done, they don’t care about accidents or health.
Another miner at Sino Metals explained similarly:
There’s been too much acid, too many fumes in the plant for so long. And many of us suffer damage to our chest as a result. We are given what the Chinese call respirators after two months, yet I tell you, after two weeks they are damaged. They don’t block out the fumes and dust anymore. A lot of people just stop using them as a result. Look at my teeth, they are damaged from the exposure to the acid. Look at my toenails, the same thing because the shoes break down and don’t give enough protection. We all suffer chest pains and cough…. They don’t give the safety attire at the agreed upon time, which itself is not good. They say that they are to give every six months, but it is more often a year…. And with other things, like the PVC gloves [coated with polyvinyl chloride, a form of plastic] for holding materials with acid, they are supposed to give these twice a month, but they only give them once. They won’t replace them even if acid has partly gone through, has damaged them. Then you have to decide if it’s worth the protection to buy your own on the outside. This leads to some acid burns. If the equipment was right, it wouldn’t happen; if they’d replace broken PPE, it wouldn’t happen.
While Sino Metals appears to be the worst Chinese company in Zambia in terms of providing PPE [see text box below on the treatment of casual workers], similar problems exist at NFCA and CCS. An underground miner at NFCA, who used to work at the Indian-owned Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), contrasted the protective equipment workers were provided at the two companies and described health problems that he had experienced after working at NFCA:
We work underground and there are problems with the dust and the noise. The Chinese don’t give me a respirator or ear pieces. At KCM, I received both for the same work…. The lack of respirator causes lots of lung problems. I cough all the time and have started feeling sharp pains in my chest after long hours underground…. NFCA only gives ear pieces to those who work directly with jackhammers, while KCM would give them if you were anywhere near one. They also gave us routine ear exams. I went on my own recently, and my hearing had gotten much worse. From a category 3 to a category 1. The union and the safety department have said they’ll talk to the Chinese, but nothing happens. We are voiceless—if you push, you can be fired.
A worker at CCS, who had also worked previously at KCM, said that KCM provided and “made compulsory” goggles or tinted glasses for those working near the flame in the smelting plant. At CCS, by contrast, eyewear was not provided to miners performing the same jobs in the hot metal department; the vast majority work without any protection. Concerned about his eyesight, this worker purchased his own pair.
Workers in the Chinese-owned copper mines, including this operator in the smelter at CCS, repeatedly stressed that the refusal to replace protective equipment was particularly problematic because the Chinese companies imported cheaper equipment to begin with:
In the smelter, you must understand that people are directly involved with the copper. We work with hot metal, with chemicals. Because of the heat, we’re supposed to be given heat-resistant PPE. You should see the leather uniforms that people have to wear. People have been wearing them for a year, and they are totally worn out. Same with the leather gloves, they are totally worn out. And for shoes, they give us normal boots as opposed to heat-resistant ones. We have pushed on all of these problems, but the manager told me, “We can’t just give you everything.” … We wear gloves that last for one week before developing holes, yet they say the timeframe is for a month, sometimes more. So you’ll have a hole or a tear, and that’s where you get burned. People get burned by acid or oxygen. If they gave us proper PPE, these injuries would go down.
Most PPE comes from China. They used to bring in respirators from South Africa, but they made an imitation in China and now that’s what we get. What used to last for months, now doesn’t work for very long.
In its letter to Human Rights Watch, CNMC outlined the different copper mining companies’ policies in regards to providing and replacing PPE at established time intervals. Human Rights Watch agrees that all of CNMC’s companies in Zambia do this—which, as noted above, is an improvement from practices several years ago. The primary issue is the replacement of PPE damaged during work, a problem that appears particularly acute at NFCA and Sino Metals. For NFCA, the CNMC letter states, “Equipment damaged ahead of the scheduled date of replacement should be replaced, but depending on the specific circumstances, the costs incurred shall be borne either by NFCA or the worker himself.” The response provides no details on which circumstances necessitate the costs being incurred by the miner. For Sino Metals, the letter states, “Sino-Metals has continued to mandate that PPE damaged before distribution is due shall be replaced, and that it will only charge half the costs incurred.” Here the company acknowledges charging workers to replace damaged PPE.
Regarding the incomplete provision of PPE, the CNMC letter indicated that recent improvements had been made in giving equipment such as respirators and dust masks—stressing that they meet relevant safety standards. Human Rights Watch acknowledges improvements, including between its research missions. However, miners continued to state in July 2011 that certain protective equipment, deemed standard when they worked for other companies, is not provided—or replaced more infrequently—at the Chinese-run companies. They described injuries and health consequences that occur as a result.
Casual Workers at Sino Metals: No PPE, Labor Law Loopholes
Casual (temporary) workers are common throughout Zambia’s copper industry, not just with the Chinese companies. Because of the low level of employment in Zambia as compared to the number of skilled workers, companies have found it easy to fill a number of positions with short-term hires who are generally paid less and not provided the benefits and allowances that regular employees receive. The country’s employment law says that companies should not employ a person for more than six months without giving a long-term contract. However, at present, the law only covers continuous employment; if a company fires a worker and then reemploys him, the six-month period starts again.
At the CNMC-owned Sino Metals, management has taken advantage of this loophole. Human Rights Watch interviewed three casual workers who had been repeatedly hired on three-month contracts, fired for periods ranging from several days to a month, and then rehired again as casuals. They had each spent over a year with the company—in one case, almost two years—yet remained casuals with no benefits. A member of Sino Metals’ management told Human Rights Watch that there were around 50 casual workers in a similar situation, including 31 in the tailings department alone.
More problematic, however, these casual workers told Human Rights Watch that they received no PPE—despite often working in dangerous departments, side-by-side with those on contract. Other companies that take advantage of the Employment Act’s loophole still provide protective equipment to casuals, as with any other worker in the plant. An operator in the thickener plant at Sino Metals who is a casual worker told Human Rights Watch:
I receive no PPE. I buy my own stuff—generally other workers’ old PPE, already torn but better than nothing. I work with dust and chemicals, but I have no other choice. I don’t use a respirator. All I have is the cloth piece to put over my mouth that one of the other workers gives me. It gets dusty after a couple of days…. The lack of PPE has caused me problems. I feel real pain in my lungs. And once I was carrying a heavy pipe without PPE, and because I didn’t have the proper clothes that cover my neck, the pipe cut and burned along my neck.
Another casual worker at Sino Metals similarly described his problems, along with the company’s efforts to conceal how they treat these workers when Zambia’s former president came for a visit:
The Chinese bosses don’t give us respirators or hard hats—nothing. We must provide our own safety equipment or go without. I have had chest pain, head pain, yet I don’t have medical care with the company either. There is no PPE for casuals. The national union has been written [about this], but nothing has been done…. It’s so bad that, when Rupiah [President Banda] came to the plant in March , they put us in a room and locked it. I guess they weren’t prepared for his arrival, I don’t know. I heard later that some other casuals had been told to stay home that day. But we were there at the plant. And they took us into a room and locked it while the president was there, to keep us out of his sight, the casuals without PPE. I was in among them.
They don’t even give us gloves, though we handle the copper…. The SX plant is where the copper cathode being produced is located. There are lots of fumes there. When there is something to lift, they call in the casuals. Yet when we go into the SX plant, we don’t get PPE…. Casuals have no rights in general. If you try to get permission for anything, they say no. I wanted to go to my grandfather’s funeral, and they said that if I went maybe I’d be fired. The Chinese boss said this, “If you go, maybe I’ll fire you.” I needed to keep my job, so I didn’t go.
A Zambian member of management at Sino Metals confirmed that while the company had a storage room full of PPE, casuals either work without it or buy it themselves—despite “taking positions that are supposed to be held by contract workers and being exposed to dust, noise, [and] to acid and fumes in the thickening plant where leaching takes place.”
A Chinese national in Sino Metals’ management, who briefly spoke to Human Rights Watch before cutting off the interview and saying that her boss said she should not speak further, refuted that anyone worked without PPE. She said, “All our workers are provided with protective clothing and boots to ensure that they are safe from acid or other dangerous materials. We always obey the country’s laws.”
While Sino Metals does provide protective clothing and boots to employees on contract, Human Rights Watch was consistently told that casuals did not receive such equipment. Moreover, as described above, even Sino Metals’ contract employees described serious problems with obtaining replacements for PPE damaged during work.
While in general the Chinese mining operation in Luanshya appears to have retained the policy of the previous mine owner in replacing damaged personal protective equipment, several miners still complained about a reduction of safety standards related to PPE. One surface worker, for example, said that the new Chinese managers had both extended the standard timeframe and made it more difficult to replace damaged PPE:
Before the Chinese came, we [surface workers] received PPE every six months. Now, it’s every year. Imagine that on an overall… to have one overall for a year—it’s not conducive to that…. If there is a tear or a problem, you must explain a lot to get a new one. Sometimes, if there’s a tear, they will say, “You weren’t careful in lifting the battery, so you don’t get a new one.” They’ve made it much more difficult than the previous employers.
When asked about problems with PPE, a Zambian manager from CCS said there were still problems getting replacements at NFCA and Sino Metals. However, he said that CCS had changed its policy in October 2010 after his “personal efforts.” He also noted employees who try to cheat the company as a reason for stringent checks:
If the PPE is damaged during the work process, the person goes to the work supervisor and is given a new one for free. This became the policy in October 2010. If it’s stolen and you bring in a police report, you get a new one. But often you have people coming in with other, broken shoes, saying it’s their PPE. They lie, to then sell it or give it to someone else. We’re a business, we need proof. If you haven’t proven that it was genuinely torn or damaged during the work process, we’re not going to pay. You have to convince with proof, otherwise the employee pays. It’s to make sure people take care of their hard hats, their respirators. It’s the same with loss—if you negligently lose the uniform, you have to pay.
Workers at CCS interviewed in July 2011 acknowledged that there had been a formal change in the policy, but said that it was still difficult in practice to receive a replacement. An operator in the smelter at CCS told Human Rights Watch:
It’s better, but it’s still difficult to get a new one. We’ll report defective PPE to the supervisor, who is supposed to report it to the Chinese and get us a new one. But many of the safety officers and supervisors don’t do their work, they’re afraid of the Chinese, they’re afraid of losing their jobs. So we still don’t get replacements, because they know safety isn’t valued.
In its letter to Human Rights Watch, similar to the statements of the CCS manager above, CNMC described problems at Sino Metals related to workers stealing and otherwise improperly using PPE provided to them. The letter, in also responding to worker complaints that the Chinese-provided PPE is of lower quality, states:
Sino-Metals has discovered that work clothes that it purchased from China are on sale in Chambishi’s markets. Investigations have shown that some workers sell the work clothes which they had just collected from the company and show up for work in old and tattered ones; during inspections, they report that the company has not replaced their work clothes in a timely manner. In addition, some workers are extremely careless about the PPE from Sino-Metals. There are many occasions on which we have found that work clothes issued barely a week before are missing a sleeve, or where the worker continues wearing a torn pair of trousers. This is not a problem to do with quality, since most workers are able to use their uniforms for a long time, with no damage to the two sets of work clothes given to them every year. 
Godwin Beene, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Mines and a board member of ZCCM-IH, which retains a minority interest in each of the country’s mining operations, also expressed the view that the real problem with PPE was workers trying to cheat their companies:
The law says they automatically get new PPE if broken or worn out. But the problem isn’t the Chinese. It’s the miners. You see, they’ll ask for new PPE in order to give the overalls, the boots, to their father or brother…. The regulations are clear. Ear plugs must be provided and worn. PPE must be provided. But they trade the new one to get money or to give it to family, and then they come in with someone’s worn old equipment and ask for a new one. It’s a problem. A good supervisor can tell if the person is lying.
While some miners may try to cheat the company, miners at both NFCA and Sino Metals said their attempts to have PPE replaced were rejected out-of-hand, not after a procedure to determine whether they were being truthful. Moreover, as described in the “Best Practices” textbox, below, workers from mines run by other multinational corporations described relative ease in exchanging torn or damaged PPE—in stark contrast to the system described by workers in the Chinese-owned mines.
“How Can We Pick One Child?”: Family Medical Care at Sino-Zam Friendship Hospital
As is standard across the copper mining industry in Zambia, the Chinese-owned companies have provided a hospital for miners. For the three companies based in Chambishi, miners have access to Sino-Zam Friendship Hospital in Kitwe. Although most workers with whom Human Rights Watch spoke expressed frustration at the distance to the hospital, several praised the hospital’s staffing and equipment—saying it was much better than going to a government hospital, in particular in its supply of medicines. China Luanshya Mine also provides a hospital in Luanshya.
While offering an important benefit to their employees, the Chinese companies appear to provide the least among their multinational competitors. At Konkola Copper Mines and Mopani Copper Mines, for example, a spouse and all minor children are covered. While there have been gradual improvements, several Chinese companies limit the number of children covered. Workers at Chambishi Copper Smelter (CCS) are covered along with a spouse and, since 2011, one child. Miners from Sino Metals can have two children covered, up from one in 2010. One miner at CCS told Human Rights Watch,
Another big problem is medical [coverage]. Most companies cover all children, but in our case, it was only last year that they covered the spouse and this year they added one child. We said that it’s not enough, how can we pick one child to receive care?
As in other areas, like pay, hours, and safety standards, the Chinese companies have made improvements, extending coverage to dependents. However, as in these same other facets, the progress is gradual and leaves them well behind other multinational mining companies in the country.
Company Safety Officers without Authority
Zambian law provides two lines of defense against abusive safety practices: safety officers employed by the mining companies themselves and government safety inspectors in the Mines Safety Department. The latter, discussed in more detail below, are largely ineffective due to a combination of underfunding, understaffing, and corruption. This puts pressure on the company safety officers to ensure that safety regulations are followed.
The ILO conventions make mine safety a priority. ILO Convention No. 176 gives workers the rights to “request and obtain, where there is cause for concern on safety and health grounds, inspections and investigations to be conducted by the employer and the competent authority” and “remove themselves from any location at the mine when circumstances arise which appear, with reasonable justification, to pose a serious danger to their safety or health.” Zambia, as a party to the convention, is obligated to “take all necessary measures, including the provision of appropriate penalties and corrective measures, to ensure the effective enforcement” of these provisions.”
Workers and union officials with whom Human Rights Watch spoke repeatedly voiced, however, that across the Chinese copper mining operations, these safety officers have almost no authority to protect workers. A national union official at NUMAW told Human Rights Watch:
They have a safety officer in place, but the final say is with the Chinese. It should be with the safety officer, but it’s not. He has no authority in the Chinese mines to say that work can’t go ahead, that it’s too unsafe. It’s not like that elsewhere…. Other companies know the labor laws here; they may infringe them from time to time, but nothing like the Chinese. The Chinese don’t know how to observe safety laws. They are the worst in accidents. Sometimes we don’t even receive information about accidents there unless there’s a fatality, as they’ll cover it up.
A Zambian safety officer at NFCA, who previously worked in the same capacity in another mining company, described his difficulties to Human Rights Watch:
Our department supervises the working environment. Our job is to make sure that safety codes are complied with, but if we go to check these things, we meet resistance. Most of our work takes place underground, seeing if there are safety problems. We report to the supervisor when there are bad conditions, when there are places where people shouldn’t work, but the Chinese supervisor doesn’t listen. He doesn’t care…. In other mines, it’s left in the hands of the safety officers, the supervisor of the safety officers. But here at NFCA, there are supervisors outside the safety office that we must report to, the Chinese. And they have the ultimate say, not us. There are so many times that I advise the work to be halted until the conditions are made safe, or that I advise them to stop using certain equipment because it’s broken and needs repair, but they don’t listen. They rarely listen. They care about getting more [copper] out, whatever the cost.
For example, there was a vehicle underground that was broken. It had broken headlights. They didn’t work. We said stop using this car underground, that’s dangerous. They refused for months, they kept using it. We had to involve the mine police to get it out from underground, to get the Chinese to stop using it. Even now, they use it on the surface.
The same safety officer also described his department’s lack of resources, stating that it was only in October 2010 that it received a vehicle to more easily move around the plant that stretches several kilometers. He likewise noted that it was more than five years after NFCA first began active operations that management purchased ambulances to get injured workers to the hospital in Kitwe, some 30 kilometers away.
At Sino Metals, the CNMC-owned processing plant in Chambishi, workers told Human Rights Watch that there was only a single full-time safety officer for the almost 400 employees. And several said that even his hiring showed just how little emphasis Sino Metals places on safety, as the person was formerly a driver, without any specific training in the country’s safety regulations. One mechanic there said: “We have plenty of people trained to perform these jobs in Zambia, yet this is who they hire. They don’t take [safety] seriously. Improving safety is even more important than the salary issue, it has to be changed.”
China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation took over China Luanshya Mine (CLM) in 2009, after it had lay dormant for just under a year. Several miners, in particular those who work underground, told Human Rights Watch that there has been a real change in the safety officers’ authority and role—reflecting the overall decline in safety with the Chinese owner. A miner who works with explosives to blast new areas of mining explained:
A real change [with the Chinese owner] has been the enforcement of safety aspects. In the past, a safety officer would say, “You can’t work here because of whatever regulation,” and it would be followed. But now, safety officers can’t stop operations. They always have to check with management. Management decides, not the safety officer, which is a problem. We’ve seen more accidents as a result. We have an average of about three accidents a week; last week we had six! For four years, back under [Swiss-based] Enya, we were the safest mine in the country. We used to go a month with maybe one accident. But now it has gone way up.
Why? There is way too much pressure from the Chinese that permeates through the Zambian managers as well. They care about always pushing, pushing to get the most production, and that has made us less safe…. Second, the Chinese never slow down or look deeper at accidents when they happen. Once when I raised this with a Chinese manager he said, “Why are we talking about accidents when there are two or three in a week? That’s nothing.” They made clear that in China accidents are far more frequent, that two to three a week is model. We have tried to convey that this isn’t China, that standards are different, but it has been difficult.
Several other miners at CLM said the rise in accidents would have been even worse were it not for the considerable experience of the miners at CLM; indeed, almost every miner there interviewed by Human Rights Watch had worked in the mine, through various ownership changes, for more than 15 years. However, the Chinese management’s treatment of safety officers had become so bad, according to one underground miner who was also a local union official, that three safety officers had recently resigned:
You cannot compare the Chinese [investors] to any of our previous employers on the enforcement of safety regulations, they are much worse. Normally, if you find an area that is not well ventilated, maybe the safety officer closes it off until the situation is better. But with the Chinese, they’ll threaten the safety officer and then he’ll rescind the decision. It’s been so bad that three guys from the safety office have resigned because of differences with management; they couldn’t work for the Chinese, they couldn’t compromise themselves like they were having to.
The same miner noted that on December 31, 2010, the mine suffered a fatality when a side wall peeled off underground and crushed a miner. He felt that the accident could have been avoided had safety officers controlled adherence to safety regulations underground, without interference from management.
CNMC’s letter to Human Rights Watch states that “it is impossible to say” that safety conditions have worsened since it took over China Luanshya Mine in 2009, as “safety management measures are essentially a continuation of previous systems.” Miners interviewed by Human Rights Watch agreed that the structural safety mechanisms were essentially maintained, but, as noted above, described far greater pressures to place production over strict adherence to these mechanisms. CNMC’s letter also highlighted a number of investments that have improved the technology and mechanization of the mine. As noted in the Good Investors, Bad Employers text box, the capital investment at CLM has been considerable, and the mine’s upgrading has positive safety and health implications. But this does not change the description by numerous workers that the respect for safety regulations and safety officers has greatly diminished. The CNMC letter finally noted that CLM had “held frank discussions with Zambian employees” following the Human Rights Watch letter, and the employees told CLM management that safety practices had not changed considerably for the worse. Human Rights Watch welcomes this direct engagement by CLM’s management, but notes workers’ concerns over being fired for speaking openly on these issues.
More generally, the CNMC letter expressed that the opinions and decisions of safety officers are given primary authority in its companies:
[S]hould [safety officers] discover any unsafe working environment, unsafe working conditions, or any worker engaging in unsafe actions, they have the authority to request that workers involved stop their work immediately and for changes to be made to address the dangerous situation or potential dangers. Only when the dangerous situation or potential dangers have been eliminated can work resume. Higher-level safety managers should support the correct decisions made by the on-site safety officers and do not have the authority to overrule these decisions. 
While this describes how the situation should work according to Zambian and international law, the statement contrasts starkly with the descriptions of practices provided by miners and company safety officers interviewed by Human Rights Watch.
Threats against Workers Refusing to Work in Unsafe Areas
Workers at the Chinese-run mines told Human Rights Watch that their bosses repeatedly forced them to work in unsafe places, under threat of being fired if they refused. Several miners told Human Rights Watch that they had suffered consequences, including termination, for failing to work in potentially dangerous environments. Because of this apparent demand of production over safety, the already dangerous workplace underground has become rife with accidents, according to miners interviewed. While workers at other multinational companies described pressure to produce, particularly with the record-high world copper prices of late 2010 and 2011, they described a contrasting environment in which they were empowered to refuse to continue working in unsafe places—and managers could even face sanctions for reckless action (for more detail, see text box below on “Best Practices”).
An underground miner at NFCA, who was involved in a 2009 accident, described his experiences with management regarding safety:
We’ve tried to advise [the Chinese management], to teach them issues of safety, but they don’t understand. They say, “Speak about safety, stop working—you’re dismissed.” How do you live like this? … They force us to work in unsafe places. As the PIC [person-in-charge], I will say “This is unsafe, we should not go ahead.” But the Chinese boss will say, “No, go work,” and threaten to dismiss me. If you don’t go along, you don’t keep your job.
A boom operator at NFCA, in charge of dynamite blasting, blamed both the Zambian and Chinese bosses and explained a recent injury he’d seen as a result of a rock fall:
If there’s an unsafe place, both the Zambian and Chinese bosses will tell you to go work there anyways…. If it’s a Zambian boss, he says he’ll go tell the Chinese boss that you refused to work even though he said it was safe. If it’s the Chinese boss, they just don’t care. They’ll say, “No work, job is finished, job is finished”—which means you’re fired.
Rockfalls are quite common at NFCA, and a lot of it is because we work in unstable situations. I’ve been involved in an accident in which my arm was fractured…. Another guy in my group spent three months in the hospital in 2011 after a rock fall badly dislocated his finger…. And when these accidents happen, the mine captains are careless. We now at least have first aid boxes underground, but the materials are not okay. The mine captains don’t check to see what’s missing. So we go underground, someone gets hurt, and they realize that not all of the first aid materials are there. Safety just isn’t a priority…. Mine captains are a mix of Chinese and Zambian, but it is really only the Chinese who are true captains.
Human Rights Watch spoke with at least a dozen miners who had suffered serious illnesses or had been injured or witnessed injuries during accidents at NFCA between 2009 and 2011; illnesses and injuries ranged from lung problems, to crushed fingers and broken limbs, to death. A miner who witnessed a 2009 fatality and suffered from his own health complications from what he believes were bad safety practices attested to the difficulty of complaining about substandard safety conditions:
I am developing ulcers and have had chest pain for a long time, as we are working in very bad conditions, horrible conditions. After a blast, it takes an hour for the dust, gases, and fumes to move out of the area. We’re supposed to wait to go in. But with the Chinese, they say, “Go, go, rush right away!” And if you don’t, they’ll terminate your contract. So we go straight into an area full of fumes and dust. And they don’t even give us respirators. We just receive mouth cloths, they say that respirators are too expensive…. The doctor said that these gases have caused my ulcers and chest pain….
The Chinese just don’t know safety. They only concentrate on production, production, we are nothing to them. I’ve seen people killed this way. Back in 2009, our mine captain, a Chinese guy, told one in my group to charge the end. The man said it was dangerous, said we shouldn’t go ahead because it wasn’t stable. The boss said that if he didn’t, he’d be dismissed. When the charge was set, rocks came down and crushed the guy’s leg. They failed to control the bleed, and he died…. I saw a similar thing happen back in 2006. That time, the rocks crushed the guy’s neck and he died instantly…. This stuff still happens, they still force us to work in unsafe places. And if you deny, if you refuse, they are going to dismiss you.
In describing the 2009 fatality, the Mines Safety Department’s annual report states that when “charging a development end a rock dislodged from the roof causing a deep cut on the [deceased’s] thigh.... The accident could have been avoided had the area been adequately barred down.” It does not specifically discuss threats by the Chinese boss, though admits, in passive voice, that better safety practices could have prevented the accident. While each individual accident could not be specifically attributed to Chinese managers’ threats or inattention to safety, forcing people to work in dangerous locations under threat of being fired may have contributed to the commonality of accidents. One former miner at NFCA, who was injured in a 2009 accident, contrasted the pressure and threats there with his previous employer, Chambishi Metals, owned by the Swiss-based Enya Holdings at that time:
If you say, “This isn’t safe,” at NFCA, the Chinese boss refuses you and says, “You Zambians have no power, just go and work.” Accidents have been frequent since the Chinese arrived…. I worked at Chambishi Metals before, and there was a big difference with NFCA. There, what the safety officer said was final. If I saw something wasn’t safe, I’d tell him, and then he’d say the area should be cleared out until improved…. The Chinese nature of work is a slavish way. Friends tell you that there’s a danger as they’re coming out of shift, yet the Chinese will still force you to go. You’ll be fired if you refuse, they threaten this all the time… The main accidents are from rock falls, but you also have electrical shocks, people hit by mining trucks underground, people falling from platforms that aren’t stable.
In my accident, I was in a loading box. The mine captain, a Chinese boss, didn’t put a platform. So when we were working, a rock fell down and hit my arm. It broke to the extent that the bone was coming out of the arm.… It’s only a plate that holds the arm together.
In addition to forcing people to work in unsafe places, certain Chinese bosses appear to put pressure on workers who are sick or injured—demanding that they return to work, regardless of health problems. One security officer at NFCA told Human Rights Watch that he had been threatened with termination several times when he tried to get “sick off” after coming down with malaria. A driver of the large trucks that transport the copper to Sino Metals for processing likewise told Human Rights Watch:
When you’re sick, the Chinese will sometimes refuse to give you leave. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the doctor says. Once, I was very sick and told to stay home by the Sino Zam doctor. I had a sick note. The Chinese boss said he’d give me two days. And then that same night he called and said, “Report tomorrow.” I had malaria, but it didn’t matter to him. All that mattered is that they were short on drivers to get the amount of copper they wanted that day.
Another underground miner at NFCA likewise recounted being pressured to return to work despite having a serious back condition:
A couple months ago, I had a serious back problem. I was in pain all the time. I went to Sino Zam, the doctors examined me, and they told me I should take 14 days off. They wrote a [medical] certificate and gave me medicine. But then soon my Chinese bosses were calling me and saying, “Too many days absent” and “You’re not good, you’re not good.” … It pains me, pains me that they would say this. I have worked here for so long, I’ve hurt myself working for them, I have the doctor saying that I need this time off. And yet they call me and tell me I’m bad because I couldn’t work through the pain. It’s these threats, when we don’t have any job security, that drive us back to the work even before the doctor says.
A nurse at Sino Zam told Human Rights Watch that they had problems with management pressuring workers to return to work immediately, regardless of what the doctors or nurses say. She said that the hospital keeps the records that show when workers have been given days off, but that miners are often afraid of being fired regardless. Many, she said, do not come for review and certification for days off in the first place, as they feel they have to go back to the job immediately.
In its letter, CNMC told Human Rights Watch that “[r]egardless of one’s status and position within the company, any person who issues orders or carries out duties in violation of regulations, or violates labor regulations, thereby placing safety at risk, will be stopped and strong disciplinary action will be taken against him.” In regards to China Luanshya Mine, CNMC stated, “Any instance in which workers are forced to continue working at the risk of danger shall be dealt with through disciplinary action.” While the appropriate response, this does not accord with scores of interviews by Human Rights Watch. The CNMC letter provides no details on any case in which a Chinese manager was subject to disciplinary action for such threats.
When asked about the consistent stories of threats in the Chinese mining operations, the Ministry of Mines permanent secretary, Godwin Beene, replied, “The law says, ‘If it’s unsafe, don’t do it.’ If the miners don’t listen to that, if they go ahead, it’s their fault. We have made sure that this slogan is well known.” Beene stressed that he was a former miner himself (during the days when the industry was controlled by the Zambian parastatal, ZCCM), and the industry was tightly regulated. In addition to the low-level miners, he blamed mine captains—not the companies—for breaches of regulations.
Making Good on Their Threats: Firings and Docked Pay
When workers do challenge Chinese managers on unsafe work areas, placing their safety over the boss’s threat, they may encounter stiff penalties as a result, including lost employment, written warnings (called “charges”) for insubordination, and docked pay. As noted above, the inability of workers to protect themselves from such situations violates their rights under ILO provisions that allow workers to remove themselves from potentially unsafe areas—and require the government to “take all necessary measures, including by providing appropriate penalties and corrective measures, to ensure the effective enforcement” of such provisions.
Multiple miners at NFCA said that they knew workmates who had refused to go ahead with work in areas they deemed unsafe and then had their contracts not renewed by the company when they ran out several months later. A former employee at CCS also told Human Rights Watch that he had refused the instructions of a Chinese manager in April 2010 to position himself in an area where “fire sparks were coming from the welders,” saying it was too dangerous. After the specific work task was finished, however, he was called to a Chinese supervisor. The employee told Human Rights Watch what followed:
I asked, “What have I done wrong?” and [the supervisor] replied, “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to talk, you’re a slave.” [My boss] and his supervisor spoke in Chinese for several minutes, and then he said I was fired. After being fired, I went to the safety officer and took him to the workplace. Then I went to see the HR [human resources] officer, who confirmed that he had been to the site where the problem started. He was very defensive of the Chinese, he didn’t even address the issue of working near the fire without fire safety equipment…. HR told me to go home, that they would finish their investigations. I have taken the case to court.
In addition to firing, four miners at NFCA told Human Rights Watch that they had been marked “absent”—and not paid for their day’s work—after refusing to go ahead in an area they deemed unsafe. An electrician who works underground described a 2010 incident:
The Chinese even cancel hours if you stop because of safety reasons. We had a problem with the supporting drill rig, for example, and it wasn’t okay to continue. I reported it to the safety officer, who reported it to the Chinese boss. I’d been working underground all day, but because we didn’t go ahead, the Chinese boss said he had “canceled” our shift, and didn’t pay me for that day.
A drill operator underground at NFCA explained a similar incident in late 2010:
So many accidents occur because the Chinese fail to understand the importance of safety…. If we refuse [to work in an unsafe place], even if a safety inspector agrees, we will come to the surface and find that they have marked us absent, so we won’t be paid… One day we had already [drilled] past where the support stopped, and I didn’t think it was safe to go farther without building more support. When I got my next paycheck I saw that I was marked absent. When I confronted the Chinese boss about it, he yelled at me and said I didn’t do my job. And he told me to quit. I’m worried now that when my contract comes up, they won’t renew me. So in the future, I’ll just have to go ahead with the work, no matter how unsafe. Otherwise I’ll lose my job.
Zambian laws on termination are fairly strict, requiring reason for dismissal and a fair process that includes giving an employee the right to respond prior to dismissal and the mandatory reporting of a summary dismissal to the district labor officer within four days along with the reasons for dismissal. If these and other provisions are not followed, workers have a grievance—and, indeed, workers do often win cases that make their way through the Zambian courts. Like the drill operator quoted above, however, most miners who spoke to Human Rights Watch made clear that they cannot risk losing their job. As a result, they said that they rarely challenge the supervisor—regardless of the health or safety risk that it subjects them to.
Best Safety Practices in Zambia’s Copper Industry
Miners who work for non-Chinese multinational corporations in Zambia’s copper industry described safety practices that could be informative in improving the standards in the Chinese-run companies. One of the biggest problems in several Chinese operations is the provision and maintenance of personal protective equipment (PPE). Miners at Kansanshi, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), and Mopani Copper Mines all told Human Rights Watch that they receive replacements for torn or otherwise damaged PPE without losing pay. A pump operator at the Canadian-owned Kansanshi processing plant told Human Rights Watch:
They are very good on safety, the credit goes to them. They do not tolerate bad work equipment. If it’s torn, they replace it, they exchange it immediately. They really try to maintain safety, to keep the place accident free. We have gone one million hours fatality free.
An engineer at the mainly Swiss-owned Mopani said similarly: “Mopani is fine in terms of PPE. All you have to do is go to the safety officer, who will write it up and provide you with new equipment because of a premature failure. Sometimes he’ll just give you a new one on the spot, other times it has to be reviewed.” Another worker at Mopani said that there are signs clearly marked “respirator area” in places involving fumes, dust, or chemicals, and all employees there must have and wear a respirator—including any casuals. As noted above, however, another miner at Mopani’s Mufulira mine complained about serious ventilation problems underground that led to respiratory disease—a finding backed by 2008 research into dust levels at the Mopani-run mines.
When accidents do occur, the provision of quick, on-site treatment is needed. An artisan fitter in Mopani’s engineering department told Human Rights Watch that, at its Mufulira mining site, the company has first aid clinics in all of the departments. A nurse at a health clinic run for employees of Chambishi Metals, a cobalt processing plant owned by a Kazakhstani natural resources company headquartered in London, said that the company had trained people on site to provide immediate first aid when necessary; if the case was serious, the person was then brought to the clinic. At CNMC-owned Sino Metals, by contrast, employees said that they have neither an ambulance nor a first aid clinic on site, but rather must rely on those stationed at the NFCA site several kilometers away. As quoted above, union officials and employees of NFCA stressed that it was just in 2009 that the company provided an ambulance and first aid kits to better respond to injuries, though several miners said that there are still problems in ensuring that all the necessary materials are included in underground first aid kits. Miners at CCS and CLM did not report any problems for onsite care.
Other multinational copper mining companies in Zambia also appear to systematically perform inquiries into what caused accidents. An underground miner at the Indian-owned KCM told Human Rights Watch that after an increase in accidents there in 2010, the company hired more safety officers, conducted internal audits to determine the problems, and provided additional safety trainings for employees. At Mopani, which has had accident problems at the Mufulira underground site that is one of the oldest mines in Zambia, an underground miner said that “after an accident, we have to do a risk assessment before doing the job again. We must ensure everything is in order. There are also seminars for sensitization on safety. The rule is, ‘If it’s not safe, don’t do it,’ and they make this clear.”
While miners at these companies said there was pressure to meet production quotas that at times encouraged risky behavior, they also said that policies were clear and any supervisor that pushed or threatened a miner to continue in an unsafe place could be reported and sanctioned. Miners from both KCM and Mopani cited incidents they knew of when a supervisor had been charged. In contrast with the often powerless safety officers at the Chinese-run operations, a miner at the KCM Tailings Leach Plant told Human Rights Watch: “The safety standards have been set, they are well elaborated in the procedures, and the safety inspectors follow them. If you stay strong, there aren’t problems.” KCM has also established a “whistleblower policy” that protects the confidentiality and anonymity of someone reporting a complaint, including on the violation of safety rules and regulations. An engineer at Mopani likewise said, “Mopani has taken safety as a very high priority. We have good safety officers, they are well trained and know the regulations.”
Finally, miners at Kansanshi and KCM told Human Rights Watch that they were rewarded for safe behavior—determined by meeting set standards for injuries and damage to equipment—with a monthly bonus.
Deliberate Failure to Report Accidents
In the Chinese-run copper mines, but particularly NFCA’s underground mine, Human Rights Watch research found what appears to be a deliberate practice by Chinese management to underreport accidents and other dangerous occurrences. The result is that government statistics on accidents in the Chinese mines are significantly lower than the true figure, reflecting deaths and other severe injuries that are difficult to conceal but not a myriad of other accidents. Human Rights Watch asked miners from the other multinational copper mining companies in Zambia whether they faced pressure to not report accidents, but no one interviewed said that management either encouraged underreporting or punished individuals who did report. As with other bad safety practices, the problems appear most acute at the Chinese-run mines.
ILO Convention No. 176 requires employers to ensure “all accidents and dangerous occurrences, as defined by national laws or regulations, are investigated and appropriate remedial action is taken” and to provide a report “to the competent authority on accidents and dangerous occurrences.”
A company safety officer employed by NFCA explained to Human Rights Watch the reporting problems at its underground mine:
There are a lot of accidents as a result of the safety practices, and many of them aren’t reported to the government safety department. The [relevant Chinese managers] hide them. When there is a serious accident, like when a person is killed or incapacitated, that has to be reported. They can’t hide that. But if it’s a more minor issue, a minor injury, they’ll try to keep it from being reported. For example, when people are gassed, it’s supposed to be reported, but it almost never is. Same for when there is damage to equipment from an accident, from a rock fall for example, but we’re fortunate that no one was around and hurt…. We see the difference in the records we keep and the records that go to the government. Consistently, they underreport…. They don’t want the government to know the real accident figures.
Some accidents aren’t even reported to us. I’ve had workers tell me that they’re paid to not call in the NFCA safety officers. They’ll take the person who has been injured from the mine to their home; the Chinese will take them, so [the person] doesn’t report. So there is underreporting everywhere. But even with that, our accidents continue to rise. With the copper price high right now, they’re pushing people harder and harder.
The safety officer noted that the person tasked with reporting accidents to the Mines Safety Department was Zambian, but that a Chinese national oversaw the entire office and imposed considerable pressure that stopped them from reporting, including through threats of termination.
As mentioned by the safety officer, the miners themselves often underreport accidents to company safety officers and government inspectors. Multiple miners at Chinese-run operations told Human Rights Watch that bosses had instructed them to not report an accident, including an operator in the acid plant at Chambishi Copper Smelter (CCS):
There are a lot of smaller accidents…. When they happen, the Chinese push you to just go home, they tell you not to go to the safety officer. This has happened to me and to several others in my work group. If you go to the safety officer, he’s required to report it to the mines safety directorate. But they don’t want this; they don’t want the government to know. So they quickly get you home, they’ll drive you themselves, and talk to you about not reporting…. When it’s a more substantial injury, they’ll pay you to stay quiet. The Chinese boss gave a friend of mine 50,000 Kwacha (US$10.40) after he was hurt, to avoid him reporting. It was right in front of me.
Human Rights Watch confirmed the account with the injured worker, who was told by the boss that the 50,000 Kwacha was “compensation” and that the injury—an acid burn—was “minor” and so did not need to be reported. He said the boss expressly referenced a desire to avoid being “charged” by the safety department. The paying of bribes to avoid reporting smaller injuries appears to be fairly standard practice, as it was presented repeatedly by miners at CCS and NFCA in particular. An underground miner at NFCA, injured in an accident in 2009, described to Human Rights Watch the ease of bribing workers:
I was told not to report [my accident] by my Chinese boss, who gave me 100,000 Kwacha ($21). He was capitalizing on my poverty to get me not to report. I know others who have done the same thing. They pay people 50,000, 100,000 Kwacha to not report an accident. And because of the pay, because of the peanuts we receive [as salary], people do this. Sometimes it doesn’t even take money. After a small accident, in which [the injury is minor], the Chinese boss will say, “I’ll give you three days off, don’t report to work,” in exchange for not reporting the accident [to a safety officer or the MSD]. We’re all so tired with our hours and our pay, it’s easy. The MSD isn’t going to improve our situation anyway.
Human Rights Watch spoke with six workers who had received bribes to not report accidents—each of whom mentioned others in their work groups who had done similarly—and all mentioned their low salaries as influencing their decision to accept a bribe.
At times, rather than bribing workers, bosses resort to threats and intimidation. This appears to occur most often when a Zambian boss, perhaps not authorized to pay out a bribe, feels concerned about his own job safety, as demonstrated in a case described by a miner at NFCA in 2011:
I was in an accident not long ago. I was working the afternoon shift, I came out from underground around 10:40 p.m. … I was forced by the [Zambian] shift boss at 10:55 p.m. to go back underground for the night shift [because the replacement hadn’t reported]. He said that if I didn’t go, I would be terminated…. I was working and [details of an accident that resulted in injury omitted]…. This was never reported to the safety people, because I was told that if I reported it, I’d be fired for negligence. My boss was afraid for his own job. He’d sent me back down for the night shift without telling the Chinese. And so if the accident had looked to be his fault, he might be fired. So he threatened me instead, saying that it would be marked as negligence and I’d lose my job if I reported it…. So up until today, I haven’t been able to get treatment. I have big pain. It’s not okay.
One result is that there may be a large number of accidents unreported to the government’s Mines Safety Department, which in turn does not investigate whether breaches of safety regulations led to accidents. Bright Kateka, deputy chief inspector in the Mines Safety Department, acknowledged the problem, though not specifically about the Chinese-run operations:
There is no guarantee that every [accident] is reported. We suspect that there are some hidden by [the mine operators]. They know if something happens... or if they have broken some rules or regulations, they will be [in trouble]. So they keep quiet, because once we know, they’ll be fined.
As noted above, despite being questioned on this by Human Rights Watch in each interview, no miner from the other multinational copper mining companies in Zambia said that they experienced pressure from their management to underreport accidents. Workers at both Mopani and Kansanshi cited no issues with underreporting. At the Indian-owned KCM, one underground miner said that, at times, the miners themselves choose to underreport accidents in which there is property damage or minor injuries because the company provides a bonus for good safety practices that is tied to the number of accidents that occur in a month.
In CNMC’s letter to Human Rights Watch, NFCA did not directly respond to allegations of underreporting and said that workers could bring complaints to the Mines Safety Department. CCS said that it “has yet to uncover any pattern of underreporting.” Sino Metals indicated that it “has neither the practice of deliberately underreporting accidents to the Mines Safety Department, nor the practice of preventing Zambian personnel from reporting accidents.” It continued, “As long as the Zambian manager believes there is need to report an accident to the Mines Safety Department, the Chinese manager has never once stopped him from doing so.”
Chinese copper mining companies whose employees deliberately underreport accidents as a result of management’s pressure are not acting in accordance with ILO Convention No. 176. For its part, the Zambian government is failing to meet its obligations under the convention to provide a protective environment in which workers have the right “to report accidents, dangerous occurrences and hazards to the employer and to the competent authority... without discrimination or retaliation.”
Problem of Subcontractors at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM)
Miners on contract at the Indian-owned KCM described a fairly strong system of health and safety protections, including the replacement of damaged PPE, the ability to bring complaints against bosses who pressure them to work in unsafe places, qualified safety officers, an emphasis on daily safety talks before starting work, and weekly safety instructions. One miner at the tailings and leach plant told Human Rights Watch that, due to the concentration of chemicals in the work environment, the company sent employees to a dental specialist each month. A previous report that focused on KCM found that the company “offers direct employees some attractive terms, conditions and bonuses.”
However, there has been a longstanding problem at KCM over lower standards among the subcontractors that the company uses to perform significant portions of the mining work. Two reports published in 2007 by separate groups engaged in the Zambian mining sector discussed this issue at length, finding problems related to safety practices, anti-union activities, and wages among the subcontractors.
The divide between those on permanent contract at KCM and those working on shorter-term contracts for KCM subcontractors remains a troubling issue according to KCM miners interviewed by Human Rights Watch. A KCM union representative in Chingola said:
A big problem is the use of contractors. [KCM] has done major outsourcing so that they don’t incur the costs of maintenance and equipment. The plant is dilapidated, 78 percent of the open-pit work is done by contractors, 50 percent of underground work is done by subcontractors. There are 1977 KCM underground employees, 1997 underground contractors…. They pay these guys less, and they don’t get the same protection for safety or job security.
Another union representative said that, because they work on shorter-term contracts without guarantees, the subcontracted miners will often “work through injuries, health problems, anything to keep their job. This impacts the overall safety. They’re also more reckless in putting production over safety, because they have no guarantees.” The quote was virtually identical to one given by a Mines Safety Department official in one of the reports from 2007 mentioned above. He said:
You will find that somebody has gone mad and developed 20 metres, because you know most of the development is now done by contractors who are paid by the metre, so they go mad developing and they leave people exposed without support in the roof sheets…. Sure enough you go there and you find someone is just scratching their heads—and they say, “sorry, I was under pressure.” So, my biggest worry is the use of contractors. When I joined the mines, all the work used to be done by the mining companies themselves…. But with the coming of the new investors, they believe in out-sourcing. To me some of it has got to ridiculous lengths. It was all done for the sake of reducing the labour costs and overheads. The mines come to an arrangement with the contractors that they pay them so much for the work done.
KCM has a code of ethics for contractors which states that they must abide by applicable laws and regulations as well as the company’s “high moral ethical and legal standards.”
Government’s Mines Safety Department
Miners who spoke to Human Rights Watch repeatedly deplored the ineffectiveness of the Mines Safety Department (MSD), a government body under the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development that is based in the Copperbelt town of Kitwe. The Mines Safety Department employs inspectors who are meant to ensure that the various mining operations conform to the strict regulations under Zambian law, but it appears ill-equipped or unwilling to play the strong role needed to ensure that mining operations protect miners’ health and safety.
Prof. John Lungu, an expert on the copper industry at Copperbelt University in Kitwe, told Human Rights Watch:
The mine inspector is supposed to be a watchdog. But they just sit, they just stay at their office; they don’t do random checks. Part of this is a lack of personnel and funding, which comes from the government’s will…. There are also corruption issues, a serious problem. [Inspectors] are paid to look the other way about accidents.
A miner at the Chinese-owned CLM, who has worked in Luanshya’s underground copper mine for 23 years, expressed similarly:
MSD is compromised, it’s a big problem. They don’t come often to inspect for [violations of safety regulations], only when we are renewing our blasting license. They don’t come for safety audits. In fact, I haven’t seen them in a year. A year! Adequate laws exist here in Zambia, but enforcement is not there.… The government just doesn’t have the will.
And while MSD is the most direct problem, it comes from higher. Not long ago, [a senior government mining official] came here and said to the workers, “Be content with what you have. Your people are languishing—for every job here, there are 15 others waiting outside [unemployed]. Or have you forgotten that the mine was closed before the Chinese came?” The conditions here don’t matter to them, they don’t defend us, so the MSD doesn’t defend us either.
Miners with the Chinese companies often expressed that MSD—and the government more generally—was particularly compromised with the Chinese, because of their employers’ propensity to pay bribes. Several said that their Chinese bosses openly made comments about the government being “in their pockets” or about workers’ complaints being futile. A Zambian member of management at Sino Metals said that he had seen Chinese management there regularly give presents to visiting members of the government, including electronics, alcohol, and cell phones. Previous reports on China’s role in Zambia have also highlighted the problem of corruption in compromising the Mines Safety Department and, in turn, worker safety.
A national-level official at MUZ who works on safety issues said that the government safety department’s general ineffectiveness was particularly damaging in the context of the Chinese-run mines:
A major problem is that MSD has inadequate support. It’s quite difficult for them to be monitoring the mines all the time, as they are very understaffed, they are very few.… The other issue is that the employer must have the will to ensure safety. So there’s the political will from the government, and then the company’s will. If [the political will] is there, things are okay. But since the government is giving inadequate support, it comes down to the companies. With the Chinese, it’s a sad story. It’s been difficult to get them to the standards. The safety officers, at NFCA for example, are just a rubber stamp. They are controlled by the management and can’t say anything—often they don’t even report accidents, as they’re just protecting their jobs. Compare this to some of the other mines, to the systems at Chibuluma or KCM. You can see the programs in place when safety departments have something to add. At those places, there are internal audits to discover potential safety problems.
When asked by Human Rights Watch about the department’s shortcomings, Bright Kateka, deputy chief inspector in the MSD, described a severe understaffing and underfunding of the department. He said that although the MSD has nine allotted positions for machinery inspections, only two are filled; there are likewise 17 positions for general mining inspections, nine of which are filled; and only two positions for explosive inspectors—both of which are filled, though one of the inspectors said “that’s not enough for one mine,” much less all the mines in Zambia. Kateka said that qualified inspectors leave to work for mining companies “after a year or two” because of better pay. In addition, the government has imposed a hiring freeze on many ministries, including the Ministry of Mines, meaning the MSD cannot hire staff to replace attrition vacancies. The result is that inspectors are hopelessly overstretched and have to “multitask”—making determinations on infractions in areas outside their expertise.
Kateka also stressed that the understaffed unit received inadequate funds to fulfill its mandate, saying that provision of the department’s “full funding is… erratic.” Annex III provides a complete breakdown of the approved and received funding for the Mines Safety Department from 2008 to 2010. The figures highlight the funding shortfalls. First, the government consistently provides far less funding than is approved for the department, with 3.952 billion Kwacha (US$832,000) approved for 2008 and 2.875 billion provided ($599,000); 2.534 billion approved ($528,000) for 2009 and 1.500 billion provided ($312,000); and 2.029 billion approved ($422,000) for 2010 and 1.102 billion provided ($230,000).
Second, as seen in those figures, the overall amount of financial support for the MSD has decreased considerably from 2008 through 2010. For 2010, a budget of 450 million Kwacha—less than $100,000—was provided for all of the department’s inspections (see Annex III), not only for the copper industry, but also for the country’s nickel, emerald, coal, and other mining activities. Not surprisingly, the decrease in funding has led to a sharp decrease in the inspections that the MSD undertakes each year. In 2008, MSD made 613 inspection visits to underground mines, including the country’s copper mines; in 2009, MSD visited “large mines” 476 times; in 2010, just 297 times.
Funding is so poor, according to Kateka, that the mining companies themselves often have to help fund the inspections:
When there’s a [mine] fatality, the family will want compensation, but an inspector’s report is required for compensation. So sometimes the mine has to pay the bill to ensure the inspector can actually come to the mine and draw up a report, for example pay for fuel in the [inspector’s] car.
When asked whether inspectors performed proactive inspections—arriving unannounced to determine whether companies met regulations—Kateka dismissed it as completely infeasible, given their staffing and budget. The result is that the MSD appears to respond only to reported accidents and scheduled checks, failing to observe and punish lax safety standards in a way that could minimize the number of accidents.
In each of its last two annual reports, the director of the Mines Safety Department has stressed that the cuts in inspectors and funding have “led to us failing to attend to a lot of proactive inspections... [and] reducing distant visits to a minimum,” while noting also that “[i]n some Sections we hardly manage to carry out statutory examinations.”
A final problem noted by Kateka is that the fines the MSD can impose “are way too low.” Low fines will have little or no deterrent effect on company practice. He said that for violating mining regulations, inspectors can charge mine operators a maximum of 135,000 Kwacha (about US$28); for violating explosive regulations, the maximum fine is 90,000 Kwacha ($19). Kateka said that in his five years, he knew of only one case in which a mine operator challenged an inspector’s fine in court—not surprising given the extremely low fines and current record-high copper prices bringing in more than $7,500 per metric ton. He added that the government was in the process of increasing the allowed fines, but said that it had been a “long process” he hoped would be completed by the end of 2011.
The understaffing and underfunding of the Mines Safety Department has meant that the Zambian government has not been able to meet its responsibilities under ILO Convention No. 176 to “provide appropriate inspection services to supervise the application of the measures to be taken in pursuance of the Convention and provide these services with the resources necessary for the accomplishment of their tasks.” The government’s continually decreasing budgetary support for the Mines Safety Department, thereby further compromising safety standards at the copper mines, may reflect a failing by Zambia to progressively achieve the full realization of the right of workers to “safe and healthy working conditions” under the ICESCR.
Physical Abuse by Chinese Supervisors
Workers often mentioned difficult working relations with the Chinese managers. At times, this was simply due to a language barrier, but other times it reached the level of verbal and even physical abuse. Most workers said that physical abuse had declined considerably in recent years. And unlike low safety standards and long hours, it does not appear to be a deliberate part of the Chinese-led working environment, but rather a long-standing practice continued by a few Chinese managers.
An underground miner at NFCA told Human Rights Watch about an incident in late 2010 when he was slapped and then threatened with termination should he report the incident:
I was underground, and we didn’t have industrial water to go ahead. It would have been too dangerous, because we didn’t have the necessary water for the machines. The Chinese boss came and he said, “Why are you not drilling?” We told him why, and he hit me, he slapped me across the face. Later he told me that if I reported him, I would lose my job….
That was the only time [physical abuse] happened to me, but I’ve seen it happen to others in my work group, and we know there’s no reason to report. A friend of mine was hit by the Chinese boss with a hammer because he said my friend should have done more work. My friend brought a complaint, but nothing happened to the Chinese guy and when my friend’s contract came up, he was let go. Everyone knew why.
Other workers described being slapped, hit, and kicked by their Chinese bosses, or having rocks, hard hats, or other equipment thrown at them. Most miners said that they did not report the incident, either because of fear for being fired or because they were paid a small bribe to not report. A nurse at the Chinese-run Sino-Zam Friendship Hospital described several cases she had seen, as well as the reluctance to report:
Yesterday [in November 2010] there were two cases that came in from severe beatings by the Chinese bosses. One of the workers was beaten by a hammer, the other by a shovel. The latter one, the one beaten by a shovel, couldn’t even sit straight when he got here. Both were beaten because they resisted work underground that they thought was unsafe. Their injuries weren’t too severe; they had some inflammation, some aggravation of their muscle tissue. Both were in a fair amount of pain.
In terms of reporting to the police, that’s on the patient. We can’t report for them. And it doesn’t happen often, because the Chinese are in a hurry to bribe, to keep the information from getting out. The driver who brought them here didn’t tell us exactly what happened, because this is just too sensitive. He wasn’t willing to report that they had been beaten by the Chinese bosses. It was only later, once we had been questioning [the miners] about their injuries for awhile, that it came out. People will easily lie if money is involved; their wages are small and they fear being fired, so a bribe works well. Beatings are generally not reported at all, even to us. It is only when there has been a serious injury—when there is tissue damage or an open wound. This happens perhaps every month.
Several miners made clear, however, that their Chinese bosses treated them well. At times, the relations with the Chinese supervisors were deemed better than those with other multinational corporations. At the same time, while assaults at the Chinese mines were relatively isolated incidents, no miner interviewed by Human Rights Watch from a non-Chinese mine said that a supervisor had subjected him to physical abuse.
When asked about reports of physical abuse, the police commissioner in Kitwe said that “the Chinese are treated the same as anyone else. If we receive a complaint, we pursue it.” He said he had received few complaints, however, and that most of those that he did receive involved fighting between two Chinese residents.
 Human Rights Watch interview with mechanic at NFCA underground mine, Kitwe, November 15, 2010.
 See generally, Republic of Zambia, Chapter 213 of the Laws of Zambia: Mines and Minerals Act, 1995 Edition (Revised).
 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), December 16, 1996, G.A. Res. 2200A( XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 49, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), entered into force January 3, 1976, art 7. Zambia ratified the ICESCR on in April 1984.
 ILO Convention No. 176: Convention concerning Safety and Health in Mines, adopted June 22, 1995. Zambia ratified Convention No. 176 in January 1999. ILO Recommendation 183 concerning Safety and Health in Mines was drafted as a supplement to ILO Convention No. 176. When Zambia ratified the Safety and Health in Mines Convention, it tacitly indicated an acceptance of Recommendation 183 as well.
 ILO Convention No. 176, preamble.
 Human Rights Watch interview with nurse at Sino Zam, Kitwe, November 11, 2010. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica. Silica is the second most common mineral in the earth’s crust and is a major component of sand, rock, and mineral ores. Overexposure to dust that contains microscopic particles of crystalline silica can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs, which reduces the lungs’ ability to extract oxygen from the air we breathe.…There is no cure for the disease, but it is 100 percent preventable if employers, workers, and health professionals work together to reduce exposures.” CDC, Preventing Silicosis, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/silica/silfact1.html (last accessed October 18, 2011). The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies effects of silicosis, including bronchitis; increased susceptibility to tuberculosis; and lung cancer, as silica is a “human lung carcinogen.” OSHA, Silcosis, http://www.osha.gov/Publications/silicosis.html (last accessed October 18, 2011).
 ILO Convention No. 176, art. 7(f); ILO Recommendation 183, para. 15.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground boomer operator A at NFCA, Chambishi, November, 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with a machinist at NFCA, Kitwe, November 6, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground drill operator at Mopani, Mufulira, November 15, 2010. A previous report on Mopani cited an interview in which the miner similarly complained about poor ventilation and also related that the company would purposefully show other parts of the operations when inspectors came. Les Amis de la Terre and Counter Balance, The Mopani Copper Mine, Zambia: How European development money has fed a mining scandal, December 2010, p. 17.
 Patrick Hayumbu, Thomas G. Robins and Rosa Key-Schwartz, “Cross-Sectional Silica Exposure Measurements at Two Zambian Copper Mines of Nkana and Mufulira,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol.5, 2008, p. 86.
 Letter from Danny Callow, chief executive officer of Mopani Copper Mines Plc, to Human Rights Watch, October 12, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with miners at the Chinese-run smelting and processing plants, Chambishi and Kitwe, November 2010 and July 2010; with miners at the Konkola Copper Mines-run smelter, Chingola, November 2010; with mine union officials, Kitwe, November 2010 and July 2011.
 ILO Convention No. 176, art. 9. See also ILO Recommendation no. 183, paras. 19-20.
 Human Rights Watch interview with medical professional at Luanshya Mine hospital, Luanshya, November 10, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with operator at the tailings and leach plant at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with an underground truck operator at Mopani, Mufulira, November 16, 2010; with operator A in the processing plant at Kansanshi, Solwezi, November 12, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with MUZ safety official, Kitwe, July 18, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground boomer operator D at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner truck operator B at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011.
 Letter from China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation (CNMC) to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 Republic of Zambia, Chapter 268: The Employment Act (Act No. 57 of 1965, as last amended by Act No. 15 of 1997), Section 42: Water for use of employees, 1997.
 ILO Recommendation 183, para 25.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner A in the tailings department at Sino Metals, Kitwe, November 8, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner in the crushing plant at Sino Metals, Kitwe, November 7, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground boomer operator B at NFCA, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 ILO Convention No. 176, art. 9(c).
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground drill operator A at NFCA, Chambishi, November 5, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner A in the water treatment department of CCS, Kitwe, November 6, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Godwin Beene, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, Lusaka, July 18, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with technician at NFCA, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with forklift operator A at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 13, 2011. The problem was also expressed repeatedly by workers at CCS, including an acid plant operator at CCS who said, “Even if [the Chinese manager] sees problems with the PPE, they will not give a new one until the timeframe is over. At CCS, the safety representative does not have the final say. The Chinese do.” Human Rights Watch interview with acid plant operator A at CCS, Kitwe, November 6, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner A in the smelter furnace at CCS, Kitwe, November 6, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner A in the SX/EW plant at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 13, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with attendant at processing plant at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 16, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground artisan fitter A at NFCA, Chambishi, November 15, 2010. Another underground miner at NFCA similarly described suffering from the poor ventilation and lack of a working respirator. He said, “You should go underground, it’s full of dust—there’s no ventilation. They just give us a cloth for our mouth once a month. After a couple days, the thing is covered in dust and dirt. You might as well go down without it. So you struggle. You struggle. And then if you say, ‘I don’t have the mouth cloth, it’s damaged, I can’t go underground,’ they say they’ll terminate you.” Human Rights Watch interview with mine truck operator A at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner B in the electrical furnace at CCS, Kitwe, July 16, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with smelter operator A at CCS, Kitwe, July 16, 2011.
 Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 For a discussion of casual workers at the Indian-owned KCM, see Action for Southern Africa (ActSA), Undermining Development? Copper Mining in Zambia, October 2007.
 Republic of Zambia, Chapter 268: The Employment Act, art. 3 (defining “casual employee” as “any employee the terms of whose employment provide for his payment at the end of each day and who is engaged for a period of not more than six months”). Human Rights Watch interview with Venus Seti, assistant labor commissioner in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Lusaka, July 18, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Zambian manager at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 13, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with casual worker in the thickener plant at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 17, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with casual worker in the SX/EW plant at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 15, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Zambian manager at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 13, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Chinese manager at Sino Metals, Chambishi, July 30, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with surface-level driver at CLM, Luanshya, July 17, 2011. In respect to PPE at China Luanshya Mine, CNMC’s letter to Human Rights Watch states, “Upon approval from the safety management department, the workers shall collect the PPE, as per their request.” Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011. This does not contradict what the miners told Human Rights Watch, namely that while the general policies from the previous investor remained in place, it was more difficult to obtain approval for replacement PPE under the Chinese management.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Evan Mutali, assistant HR manager at CCS, Chambishi, July 2011. In respect to PPE at CCS, CNMC’s letter to Human Rights Watch states, “Chambishi Copper Smelter has explicit processes for workers to file requests for the replacement of, and for their collection of, PPE that has been damaged or lost in production areas; these are implemented across all work units.” Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with smelter operator A at CCS, Kitwe, July 16, 2011.
 Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Godwin Beene, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, Lusaka, July 18, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with smelter operator B at CCS, Kitwe, July 16, 2011.
 ILO Convention No. 176, art. 13.
 Ibid., art. 16.
 Human Rights Watch interview with NUMAW official, Kitwe, July 12, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with NFCA safety officer, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with NFCA safety officer, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with miner B at the SX/EW plant, Sino Metals, Kitwe, November 8, 2010; with mechanic A at Sino Metals, Kitwe, November 8, 2010; and with copper sampler A at Sino Metals, Kitwe, November 8, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with mechanic A at Sino Metals, Kitwe, November 8, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with blast engineer A at CLM, Luanshya, November 10, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with surface and underground electrician for high-voltage areas at CLM, Luanshya, July 17, 2011.
 Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 Ibid. This passage was directly related to NFCA, but is similar to statements regarding the other Chinese-run companies.
 Human Rights Watch interview with a PIC at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground boomer operator C, Chambishi, July 16, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground load operator A at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011. Another worker at NFCA highlighted the problem of forcing people to rush immediately after blasting, saying, “We’ll have just done blasting, and there will be lots of smoke. No ventilation, dust everywhere. In most mines, you’d wait for that to clear out. But with the Chinese, they tell the loader drivers to rush immediately. They tell you to go work there right away, and they say that if you say no, they’ll terminate your contact. We have to choose between the threat of termination and working in unsafe places.” Human Rights Watch interview with underground boomer operator D at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011.
 Mines Safety Department, 2009 Annual Report, January 2010 (on file with Human Rights Watch).
 Human Rights Watch interview with former underground miner at NFCA, Chambishi, July 15, 2011. A Human Rights Watch researcher saw a foot-long scar consistent with the miner’s description.
 Human Rights Watch interview with security officer at NFCA, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with truck driver A at Sino Metals, Kitwe, November 7, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground boomer helper at NFCA, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with nurse at Sino Zam, Kitwe, November 11, 2010.
 Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Godwin Beene, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, Lusaka, July 18, 2011.
 ILO Convention No. 176, arts. 13 and 16.
 Human Rights Watch interview with former miner at CCS, Kitwe, November, 15, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with electrician A at NFCA, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground drill operator B at NFCA, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 See Republic of Zambia, Chapter 268: The Employment Act, sections 20-26; Ministry of Labour and Social Security, “Frequently Asked Labour Law Questions (With Answers),” December 2008, pp. 5-8.
 Human Rights Watch interview with pump operator at Kansanshi, Solwezi, November 12, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with engineer A at Mopani, Mufulira, November 16, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with crane operator in the smelter at Mopani, Mufulira, November 16, 2010.
 See footnote 89.
 Human Rights Watch interview with artisan fitter at Mopani, Mufulira, November 16, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with nurse at health clinic for employees of Chambishi Metals, Kalulushi, November 4, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with miner B in the thickener plant, Kitwe, November 7, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground pump operator at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground mine truck operator A at Mopani, Mufulira, November 16, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with artisan technician at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010; and with underground mine truck operator A at Mopani, Mufulira, November 16, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with forklift operator at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with union representative at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010. See also Konkola Copper Mines Plc., Whistleblower Policy, http://www.kcm.co.zm/index.php?option=com_ whistleblower&Itemid=61 (accessed September 28, 2011).
 Human Rights Watch interview with engineer in the mining hoist department at Mopani, Mufulira, November 16, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with miners at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010; and with miners at Kansanshi, Solwezi, November 12, 2010.
 ILO Convention No. 176, art. 10(d), (e).
 Human Rights Watch interview with NFCA safety inspector, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with acid plant operator A at CCS, Kitwe, November 6, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with acid plant operator B at CCS, Kitwe, November 7, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground artisan fitter B at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with mine truck operator B at NFCA, Chambishi, July 16, 2011. Details of this account have been omitted to protect the worker from reprisal.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Bright Kateka, Deputy Chief Inspector, Mines Safety Department, Kitwe, July 28, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with mechanic at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010.
 Letter from CNMC to Human Rights Watch, October 8, 2011.
ILO Convention No. 176, art. 13.
 Action for Southern Africa (ActSA), Undermining Development? Copper Mining in Zambia, October 2007, pp. 10-15.
 Frasier and Lungu, For Whom the Windfalls, pp. 22-26; Action for Southern Africa (ActSA), Undermining Development? Copper Mining in Zambia, October 2007, p. 10.
 Human Rights Watch interview with union representative A at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with union representative B at KCM, Chingola, November 14, 2010.
 Frasier and Lungu, For Whom the Windfalls, p. 24.
 Konkola Copper Mines, Code of Ethics, http://www.kcm.co.zm/index.php?option=com_content &view=article&id=56&Itemid=69 (accessed September 26, 2011).
 Human Rights Watch interview with John Lungu, professor at Copperbelt University, Kitwe, November 16, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with blast engineer A at CLM, Luanshya, July 17, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with foreman at CLM, Luanshya, July 17, 2011; and with miner C in the SX/EW plant at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 13, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with surface electrician A at CLM, Luanshya, November 10, 2010; with MUZ union official, Chambishi, November 5, 2010; with mechanical fitter at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 14, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Zambian manager at Sino Metals, Kitwe, July 14, 2010.
 Haglund, “In It for the Long Term?,” p. 641, fn. 80 (“In 2006 production at NFCA was stopped for eight days upon the insistence of the Mines Safety Department because the rope winder for one of the shaft elevators needed its brakes replaced. Production was eventually resumed, without replacing the lift’s brakes.” The author then cited an NFCA miner he interviewed as saying, “I asked somebody, why is it that this winder is running, when we were told it has a problem. He said ‘this man who came, we took him to see the CEO, and that is how we produced a certificate saying that the winder is OK’ … When an official proves to be difficult, they take him to the higher management, so he is given something there.”).
 Human Rights Watch interview with MUZ safety official, Kitwe, July 18, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with Bright Kateka, Deputy Chief Inspector, Mines Safety Department, Kitwe, July 28, 2011; and with an explosives inspector in the Mines Safety Department, Kitwe, July 28, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Bright Kateka, Deputy Chief Inspector, Mines Safety Department, Kitwe, July 28, 2011. Kateka said that the freeze affected all but the Health, Education, and Agriculture Ministries.
 Mines Safety Department (MSD), 2008 Annual Report, February 2009, pp. 2-3 (on file with author); MSD, 2009 Annual Report, January 2010, p. 2-3 (on file with author); MSD, 2010 Annual Report, February 2011, pp. 2-3 (on file with author).
 MSD, 2008 Annual Report, February 2009, p. 4; MSD, 2009 Annual Report, January 2010, p. 4; MSD, 2010 Annual Report, February 2011, p. 4. MSD appears to have merely changed terminology from “underground” to “large” between 2008 and 2009, as the other categories (e.g., “surface, small mines, or quarries” and “explosive factories”) remained the same.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with Bright Kateka, Deputy Chief Inspector, Mines Safety Department, Kitwe, July 28, 2011.
 MSD, 2010 Annual Report, February 2011, p. 18; MSD, 2009 Annual Report, January 2010, p. 18.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with Bright Kateka, Deputy Chief Inspector, Mines Safety Department, Kitwe, July 28, 2011.
 ILO Convention No. 176, art. 16(b).
 ICESCR, arts. 2 and 7(b). According to the UN Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, progressive realization “is on the one hand a necessary flexibility device, reflecting the realities of the real world and the difficulties involved for any country in ensuring full realization of economic, social and cultural rights. On the other hand, the phrase must be read in the light of the overall objective, indeed the raison d’être, of the Covenant which is to establish clear obligations for States parties in respect of the full realization of the rights in question. It thus imposes an obligation to move as expeditiously and effectively as possible towards that goal. Moreover, any deliberately retrogressive measures in that regard would require the most careful consideration and would need to be fully justified by reference to the totality of the rights provided for in the Covenant and in the context of the full use of the maximum available resources.” Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights. General Comment 3, “The nature of States parties’ obligations” (Fifth session, 1990), U.N. Doc. E/1991/23, annex III at 86 (1990), reprinted in Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.6 at 14 (2003), para. 9.
 Human Rights Watch interview with underground boomer operator B at NFCA, Chambishi, November 11, 2010.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with construction worker A at 15MCC, Chambishi, November 9, 2010; with artisan fitter A at NFCA, Kitwe, November 15, 2010; with boomer helper at NFCA, Chambishi, November 11, 2010; with acid plant operator B at CCS, Kitwe, November 7, 2010; and with construction worker B at 15MCC, Chambishi, July 15, 2011.
 Human Rights Watch interview with nurse at Sino Zam hospital, Kitwe, November 2010. The precise date has been omitted to protect the workers against reprisal.
 Human Rights Watch interview with police commissioner of Kitwe, Kitwe, November 17, 2010.