Mines Minister Richard Musukwa says mining companies should not increase production at the expense of human life.

He said it was important for mining companies to employ mining methods and technologies that guaranteed sustainability.

Musukwa said this during the opening of the 5th National Conference on Occupational Safety, Healthy and Environment held by the Zambia Chamber of Mines in Ndola, Thursday.

“Our desire is to have a growing mining industry, using technology that generates benefits with zero negative impacts on communities. Therefore, mining companies should employ mining methods and technologies that guarantee sustainability. The increase in mineral production should not be at the expense of human life,” Musukwa said.

“Government has in the recent past expressed serious concern over the high incidences of mine and industrial accidents that have continued to occur, and has called for necessary measures to curb the trend. Therefore government calls for more concerted efforts by all players in the industry to improve our occupational safety and health systems…Regrettably, environmental and occupational safety issues have continued to emerge, and to some extent still dominate debate nationally and globally. Environmental activities that were undertaken in the past have continued to be of concern.”

And Musukwa said mines were using far more electricity than they needed.

“The country is facing a huge deficit of power. Mines use a massive amount of electricity-usually far more than they need. By combining smart devices with algorithms that accurately determine electricity needs in various sections of a mine, mining operations can save money and increase sustainability,” said Musukwa.

Meanwhile, Chamber of Mines president Goodwell Mateyo said for any mine operator, a safe work place was essential for the long-term wellbeing of its people.

“Mining lies at the heart of our economy and is a major driver of foreign exchange earnings and a significant contributor to our country’s’ GDP. However, this economic activity does make an impact on our environment, and can affect the health and safety of those working in the industry and the people living in communities around mine sites. For any mine operator, a safe work place is essential for the long-term wellbeing of its people. Fatalities, occupational disease and injuries must therefore be avoided at all costs at work. Indeed responsible mines must empower employees to refuse to carry out any unsafe work,” Mateyo said.

Mateyo said the effects of climate change had manifested dramatically in the country.

“The effects of climate change have manifested themselves rather dramatically in our country and region. It is therefore imperative that mine operators minimise the impact of their operations on the environment. Therefore, [this] provides us all within the industry an opportunity to exercise leadership in discussing and coming up with innovative ideas to minimise the impact of our operations on the health and safety of our employees, our communities in which we operate and the environment,” said Mateyo.

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