SOME miners were briefly trapped as Nchanga underground mine got flooded on Tuesday following the hasty decision by Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) to further restrict power supply to Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), the KCM public relations and communications manager Shapi Shachinda has revealed.
“This occurred on Tuesday 23rd September 2014 around 23:40 hours. When KCM technicians noticed instability and trip outs of a power transformer, investigations revealed that CEC had further restricted power supply, without notifying KCM, beyond the earlier restriction on Saturday 20th September 2014, which had prompted the suspension of operations at the Nchanga concentrator,
“CEC recklessly stepped down their transformers supplying power to the Nchanga underground mine, from 150 per cent overload settings to 50 per cent, in total disregard of the provisions of the Power Supply Agreement (PSA), which require both parties to be present when restricting supply in order to avoid creating safety hazards to employees and flooding risk of the mine,” said Mr Shachinda
He said the decision to step down their transformer put the lives of miners working at the bottom of the cage.
Mr Shachinda said KCM officials made initial efforts and contacted CEC technicians just after the incident occurred to ask them to resume normal supply to the Nchanga underground mine, but the CEC technicians refused to comply.
He said the supply was only normalised following the intervention of the CEC managing director, who had to be contacted by a senior KCM executive and informed of the flooding condition and risk to miners trapped underground, as the cage could not be operated to take them up due to the restricted power.
“The miners were later rescued and, we are pleased to advise, in good health,” said Mr Shachinda He said Nchanga underground mine was flooded following a further unilateral decision by CEC to step down power supply to major transformer supplying electricity to the mine.
Mr Shacinda said consequently KCM has incurred massive financial losses and that will now take weeks to dewater the flooded areas and further time to stabilize and resume normal operations.
He said resulting from the CEC unilateral power restriction and the flooding this had caused; KCM has suspended mining operations at the Nchanga underground.
“KCM regrets to announce that the Nchanga underground mine was flooded following a further unilateral decision by the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) to step down power supply to a major transformer supplying electricity to the mine,” he said.
Chamber of Mines of Zambia president Mr Julius Sikamo could not be immediately contacted for a comment.
The CEC is demanding the payment of US$ 44 million that KCM owes in electricity power supply.