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Minister, hand pickers differ


TROUBLE is still brewing at the ‘Black Mountain’ following a disagreement between the Minister of Mines and Mineral Development, Paul Kabuswe, and the Chrome or Hand Pickers over government’s decision to stop them from operating at the site and instead using  four sites where the slug will be off-loaded for them.

The pickers want equity and more importantly transparency over the business plan which has given “mechanical” advantage to unknown cooperative operators.

Who owns the cooperatives and who will control the “massive” proceeds from selling the slug? are the questions they are asking, as they are made to make a pittance from Chrome picking.

They are concerned that the bulk of value will go to the cooperatives controlled by senior officials.

And Mr Kabuswe yesterday pleaded that there was need to make peace with the Chrome or Hand Pickers or else there will be no smooth operations at the Black Mountain as evidenced by the disturbances which had happened in the recent past

The Mines Minister, who traveled to Kitwe to calm down the situation at the Black Mountain following the riots by the Hand Pickers, received a rude shock when the group rejected his proposal that they should not operate at the Black Mountain.

Mr Kabuswe addressed the more than 500 Hand Pickers opposite the Black Mountain behind the Copperbelt Show grounds and told them that  for purposes of safety, they will not be allowed to operate at the Black Mountain.

But, before Mr Kabuswe could   drive the point home, the Hand Pickers rejected his proposal while others started walking away from the meeting saying his proposal was a non-starter.

Realizing that the Hand Pickers were uncompromising, the Minister decided to propose that, among themselves, they choose   representatives to meet him and resolve the issue amicably.

After failing to convince the Hand Pickers, Mr Kabuswe went back to the Black Mountain and told the Mine Manager, Rao Hanman, to ensure that the material being off-loaded at the four identified sites had Chrome to avoid the Hand Pickers becoming suspicious over the material being given to them.

Mr Kabuswe said there was need to ensure that there was consistency in delivering the material at the four sites , adding that the material should contain Chrome or else the Chrome or Hand Pickers would think stopping them from operating from the Black Mountain was one way of pushing them away.

“We have to make peace with the Chrome or Hand Pickers or else it will be difficult to have smooth operations here. Let us ensure that the material being off-loaded in the four identified sites has Chrome because if the material being taken there has little or no Chrome , they will think we are just pushing away,’’ Mr Kabuswe said.

Last week , the Black Mountain experienced some disturbances on Tuesday and Thursday after Hand Pickers ran amok  in protest over various operational modalities which included the two hour time frame and stopping them from operating from the Black Mountain.

On Thursday,  a ZAMBEEF outlet in Wusakile Township of Kitwe had its windows shattered, while a house at C4 191 had one of its bedroom burnt after a tear gas canister penetrated through a window hitting into one of the electric cable during a riot by Hand Pickers from the Black Mountain.

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