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A response to HRW

In responding to a

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) response to our critique of their report on copper mining in Zambia by subsidiaries of state-owned China Non-Ferrous Metal Mining Corp. (CNMC) ignores our main criticisms of their empirical-methodological errors and its interpretation that attributes their ‘findings’ to Chinese trivializing safety and importing practices from China. It ignores too the effects of incitement of anti-Chinese racism in Zambia’s mining region by the now-ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and the effects of the bashing discourse of China-in-Africa promoted by Western politicians and media, to which the HRW report has quite predictably contributed. Its argument that CNMC firms, in contrast to Western-based mining companies in Zambia, are the ‘bad employers’ and ‘the worst’ in that country’s industry has no basis, when those relevant factors related to safety, unionization, hours, and wages that HRW continues to ignore are taken into account. Empirically and politically, the HRW report itself provides the wrong answers to the wrong question about China and human rights in Africa.


HRW fails to understand that it is unsound to rely on comparisons that miner interviewees made about safety conditions in CNMC-owned mines and other mines. Most interviewees have worked either at CNMC-owned mines or the mines of other foreign owners, but not both. Their comparisons are thus speculative, based on hearsay. HRW nevertheless uses such comparisons to claim that safety conditions at CNMC facilities are ‘the worse.’

A minority of HRW interviewees worked in 2008 at two of the other foreign-owned mines, UK/Indian-owned KCM and Swiss/Canadian-run MCM, before they came to CNMC. Those who were laid-off by KCM or MCM and hired by CNMC firms during this period would mostly have been among the nearly 10,0000 permanent workers shed by other mine owners (on job loss in the financial crisis, see below). Thus those who HRW interviewed likely experienced the safety conditions that permanent employees had in KCM or MCM. HRW ignores that contract workers are half or more of KCM and MCM’s workforces[1] and have much worse conditions of service than permanent employees. Those who HRW interviewed might be representative of permanent workers at KCM and MCM in 2008, but are not at all representative of all workers at these two companies. Thus they cannot authoritatively compare safety at CNMC firms with safety at KCM and MCM, not to speak of safety at the several other foreign-owned firms.

HRW also ignores that their miner interviewees not only do not have an experiential basis for drawing safety comparisons, they also cannot be relied upon, because many are likely biased against Chinese. Zambians generally and miners particularly have been subjected to a six-year barrage of vituperative anti-Chinese racism by PF head and now-President Michael Sata and workers at CNMC enterprises have shown through their use of anti-Chinese slogans that they are influenced by the PF and Western anti-Chinese discourse.[2] While strikes are commonplace and violent protests are occasional in Zambia’s copper industry, racialized slogans are uniquely present in strikes at CNMC’s subsidiaries.[3] It is not rare for Zambians to perceive that those of their countrymen who work for Chinese firms are mostly anti-Chinese, a perception confirmed by researchers in Zambia.[4] Where workers have a conscious or unconscious racial animus against employers, they may not accurately depict even conditions they say they experienced or saw. Studies have shown that racialized discourse shapes attitudes and distorts evaluations on a wide range of issues.[5]

We argue that with a sufficient sample size, the soundest way to determine whether a company’s safety practices are markedly worse than other firms’ is to use fatality rates. HRW calls such a method flawed because there are ‘extraneous variables’. It is not merely we who argue that the fatality rate is the best measure of safety: the leading sociologist of industrial injuries has put it that: ‘The data which are the most reliable indication of safety are those for fatalities.’[6] In Zambia injuries may be underreported, but fatalities cannot be hidden.
Variables must be taken into account when considering the implications of fatality rates, but are not ‘extraneous’: factors such as whether mines being compared are open cast (OC, a.k.a. ‘surface’ and ‘open pit’) or underground (UG) are basic to safety comparisons. HRW ignores those factors that cut against its argument that CNMC firms are the worst. CNMC is alone in having its two mines, NFCA Chambishi and CNMC Luanshya (CLM), both UG; all other foreign-owned mining firms have either only OC or mixed OC/UG mines. UG mines are notoriously less safe places than OC mines; in the US, for example, the fatality rate of underground mining is nearly three times that of OC mining.[7]

Factoring in CNMC mines being both UG, one would thus expect that fatality rates at CNMC mines would be markedly worse than the average rate for all foreign-owned mines, but they are not. The scale of the Zambian copper industry is not large enough so that year-by-year company-by-company comparison of fatality rates is meaningless. However, it becomes meaningful if we compare CNMC’s 10-year cumulative average (2001-2011) against the cumulative average of the entire foreign-operated industry over the same period. This comparison shows that the rates are roughly the same, even before taking into account the wholly UG nature of CNMC firms’ mines. HRW notes that CNMC firms had fewer workers before 2009 than they have had since, but so too did other mines. From 2001-2008, before CNMC acquired CLM and operationalized CCS, we estimate that its firms averaged 2,800 employees (including those constructing Sino-Metal and CCS) - 7.2 per cent of foreign-owned firm employees, which averaged 39,000.[8] CNMC firms had a corresponding 8.2 per cent of the 169 fatalities in Zambian copper mining from 2001-2008.

In 2009-2011, the proportion of CNMC fatalities was somewhat higher than before, because CNMC firm workforces grew and incorporated more workers, while other mines reduced their workforces during the financial crisis and retained experienced workers. New mines were being built at Chambishi and Luanshya. More workers doing construction raises the likelihood of fatalities, as mine construction is more dangerous than mine operation. At any rate, fatality comparisons for such a short period (2009-2011) in the Zambian context are meaningless.

In an attempt to fudge the fatality comparisons, HRW’s response makes much of the BGRIMM dynamite plant explosion of 2005. The Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ), in its statistics on fatalities, does not attribute that accident to NFCA because NFCA played no role in managing the dynamite plant. BGRIMM, a non-CNMC firm, managed it and was thus automatically held responsible for the accident, irrespective of whether worker negligence caused it, because the legal doctrine of liability without regard to fault (strict liability) applies where deaths or injuries occur in the course of such ultra-hazardous activity as dynamite-making. If HRW research indeed focuses on ‘the specific company’ CNMC as it claims to do, then there is no reason for HRW to drag in the BGRIMM tragedy. The only logic to aggregate the two would be an ethnic/racial one: that of their being Chinese. HRW fails to resist this temptation and thus allows this ethnic/racial lens to prevail over its professed focus on CNMC.

HRW’s discussion of safety violations at CNMC firms concerns failure to replace personal protective equipment (PPE) at three of four CNMC firms, safety officer authority, pressures to work in areas miners deem unsafe and bribes offered for not reporting an accident. Such practices are to be deplored and ended, but hardly amount to human rights violations in the sense most people understand the phrase. Given the deadliness of indisputable human rights violations in mining in many African states, one should wonder why the Africa division of a major human rights organization would focus on such low-level violations, other than the fact that the firm it chose to critique was not a random or ordinary Chinese company involved in extractive industries in Africa, but one already at the center of an anti-Chinese and China-bashing campaign by Western politicians and media. More importantly, we challenge the implication that the practices HRW discusses only occur at Chinese-owned firms, in Zambia or elsewhere. For example, according to the Zambian Confederation of Trade Unions, the failure to provide PPE is common throughout Zambian industry,[9] only a tiny proportion of which consists of Chinese-owned firms. That, in broader terms, is what the MUZ president indicated when he stated that CNMC firms ‘have their own problems like mistreating workers and not following labor laws, but other mining houses are also culprits in this area. It is not only the Chinese mining companies.’[10]

Long-term fatalities comparison indicates that CNMC firms’ safety records are about the same as other foreign-owned Zambia copper mining companies. Firm-level studies by NGOs of safety conditions at Zambian copper mines, including KCM, MCM, and Chibuluma mine, owned by South Africa’s Metorex, all found serious safety problems.[11] HRW’s continued assertion that CNMC firms are ‘the worst’ in the face of our having shown elementary methodological mistakes in its report - e.g. the failure to take into account the effects of UG versus OC mining - shows a lack of intellectual honesty that carries over to other aspects of the response.


The HRW response discusses MUZ not representing workers at two CNMC-owned copper processing plants, CCS and Sino-Metals, to make out a case that CNMC firms, but not Western-based ones, are ‘anti-union’. The other miners’ union, the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers (NUMAW), is the bargaining agent at CCS and Sino-Metals. Some 80 per cent of CNMC-firm employees work at CNMC’s NFCA Chambishi and CLM mines, where both unions are recognized and bargain together.

HRW ignores our question of why CNMC would be ‘anti-union’ only as to one of the two unions and only at its relatively small processing firms, but not anti-union as to the two unions at its two mines. It ignores our query because there is no logical answer; all that is known with certainty is that MUZ wants in at CCS and Sino-Metals and that these firms have said that MUZ hasn’t filed papers indicating the necessary worker support. Whether CCS and Sino-Metals have uniquely ‘blocked the establishment of a union branch office’, as HRW alleges, thus remains an open question. Again, however, it is far-fetched to raise to the level of a human rights violation a situation where most workers have the choice of one or the other of two independent unions and a minority are represented by one of those unions.

We are of the view that resolution of this dispute by allowing workers to have a choice of unions is the better option. Having only one independent union at a firm or even in industry is not however widely regarded as a human rights violation. Both the previous Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD)-led government (1991-2011) and the present PF government have had policies of encouraging representation by only one union at each firm (MMD) or in each industry (PF).[12] At the South African-owned Chibuluma mine, there was, as of 2009, only one union (MUZ) and a study found that workers were convinced that having everyone in the same union increased their leverage in bargaining with the bosses.[13] Indeed, Zambia’s Democratic Governance and Human Rights Advocates head Gerald Mutelo has stated that ‘having one union will represent the workers effectively’.[14]


The HRW report, in dealing with the question of long hours at CNMC firms, does not claim that all their employees work 72-hour weeks or 365 days a year, but its author did generalize at a widely-viewed website that ‘several Chinese-run copper mining companies require miners to work brutally long hours - 72-hour work week for some, 365 days without an off day for others…’[15] In fact, the HRW report states that miners at the two CNMC-owned mines work the Zambian standard of eight hours a day, six days a week, that only one of several departments at Sino Metals requires a 72-hour work week, and that CCS has four 12-hour work days, followed by two days off. A 72-hour work week is something no firm would want to continue unless it felt it had no choice, given that Zambian law requires time and a half or double time pay for hours beyond 48 a week.[16] As for CCS, an employee has written that:

‘[workers in CCS"> have 48-hour work weeks and work 20-21 days a month. The reason for doing 12-hour shifts is for the sake of the smooth operation of the kinds of machines that we currently have. As CCS is a new plant, most local employees cannot yet independently operate the machines. So there are still Chinese at each shift, overseeing the operations. Not enough Chinese are around to be spread to supervise 3 shifts. Zambian workers prefer to work 8-hour shifts. The management has considered it, but it would be possible only when local workers have adequate skill for independent operation. So the management is pushing for localization of skills.’[17]

What the HRW response also ignores, in another lapse in intellectual honesty, is all evidence that directly contradicts its assertion that no other company in Zambian copper mining requires long hours of its workers. In 2007, KCM miners reported they worked more than eight hours, often up to 12 hours, without overtime pay.[18] In 2008, a Zambian seeking employment at Chambishi stated that ‘his countrymen prefer to be employed by the NFCA rather than other foreign companies. They say they would rather work the eight hours demanded of them by the NFCA than the 12 hours which is commonplace in other companies.’[19] In 2009, KCM miners worked four 12-hour days, then two days off.[20] In 2010, a permanent employee miner at Lumwana mine said her colleagues work four 12-hour day shifts, then four 12-hour night shifts, followed by four days off.[21] In 2012, miners who struck at Kansanshi demanded that their 12-hours shifts be cut to eight hours.[22]

A 2011 UK newspaper account of MCM noted that miners there ‘toil six-and-a-half days a week in the rock underneath Mufulira’, i.e. more hours per week than do NFCA or CLM underground miners and, in effect, up to 365 days a year.[23] Presumably, thousands of miners at MCM work that schedule, as the MCM workforce totals about 16,500 compared to a total of less than 6,000 at all CNMC firms. Workers in one Sino Metals department who claimed to HRW that they work every day are far fewer. Media reports about the HRW study have predictably asserted that long shifts are a general practice of Chinese-owned mining firms in Zambia and Chinese-owned mining firms alone, while the HRW report itself tells readers they should infer something from it about Chinese practices in Africa more generally.

On hours, as on safety then, the CNMC firms are about the same as other firms. They may even be a bit better, as a smaller part of the total CNMC workforce seems to work long hours than the total workforces at other, larger firms.


The HRW report (p. 24) contends there is a large pay gap between CNMC-owned firms and other foreign investors, asserting that ‘Chinese copper mining companies offer base salaries around one-fourth of their competitors for the same work’. In HRW’s response, it is put that CNMC firms pay one-sixth to one-half the salaries paid by other firms. A wage gap exists and should not be excused on moral/political grounds, but due to the presence of numerous low-paid contract workers at several non-CNMC mines, the gap is not nearly as large as HRW claims.

A long academic paper critiquing the HRW report that we are writing has an elaborate discussion of why wages have been lower at CNMC firms than among permanent employees at Zambia’s other mining firms. We can only summarize that discussion here. We do not question the wage schedules shown in HRW’s appendix. We do take issue with HRW’s taking it at its face value. There is more than what meets the eye. HRW continues to ignore the critical fact, stated in our earlier critique, that significant proportions of workforces at the other firms are low-paid or super low-paid contract workers.

In early 2012, Zambia’s Minister of Labour ‘bemoaned the high levels of casualization of labor in mining companies…’[24] At non-CNMC firms, contract workers are 25-57 per cent of the workforces. NGO researchers have said that ‘When we visited [MCM’s main mine"> Mufulira in 2009 and 2010, the miners confirmed that their wages were still far from sufficient, and that those employed by sub-contractors could be paid as little as half the wages of permanent employees, for the same work.’[25] Zambia’s Deputy Commissioner of Labour stated in 2011 that contractor’s workers may get as little as one-fourth the pay of permanent employees.[26] A UK journalist who interviewed MCM miners in 2011 said they were ‘typically paid’ three British pounds per day,[27] about US$120 a month. That is too low a figure for regular MCM employees, but likely the salary of contract workers, who constitute half MCM’s workforce. In 2011, the Labour Ministry reported that ‘[L]abor offices have recorded a number of reports, especially in areas such as Mopani Copper Mines and Konkola Copper Mines, where several sub-contracted companies have been paying below the Government's minimum wage requirements’[28"> of K419,000 or $82 a month. When KCM contract workers struck in 2011, they stated that no contract worker was paid more than K500,000 or about US$100 a month.[29"> In 2012, striking Kansanshi miners demanded an end to contract work[30"> and added that they were paid between K1m-5m monthly, indicating that the contract workers among them likely received half or less of permanent employees’ pay.[31">

In contrast, workers at the two CNMC mines, where 80 per cent of CNMC workers are employed, are permanent and pensionable. When account is taken that CNMC mines employ permanent workers and KCM, MCM and other larger firms employ many low-paid contract workers, the actual wage gap between Chinese-owned firms and these much larger ones diminishes significantly. Yet the HRW report simplistically bases its conclusions only on the apparent wage scales differential and ignores how the actual compositions of workforces impact actual average basic pay.

Two other pay-influencing factors were also ignored by HRW: productivity and profit levels. Productivity in tons of copper per worker per year produced by non-CNMC firms in 2010 ranged from 10.4 to 58.3, while the two CNMC-owned mines had 7.1 and 7.7. The difference largely results from the UG nature and low copper content of CNMC-owned mines. There is a global tendency for highly productive enterprises to pay higher wages than less productive ones. For example, productivity and wages in Zambia are low by Canadian standards. In 2009, Canada’s Highland Valley Copper (HVC) produced 118,000t with 880 employees, 134t per worker,[32"> more than twice the level of productivity at the Canadian-owned Kansanshi mine in Zambia, more than 10 times the Zambia average, and about 18 times the average at CNMC’s Zambia mines. Basic salaries for HVC miners in 2011 were $5,700 a month or some 14 times those at CNMC Zambia mines.[33">

The world over, more profitable enterprises also tend to pay more than less profitable ones. Kansanshi in 2010 had an operating profit of $997m,[34"> while NFCA’s was about $40m.[35"> NFCA’s profits began in 2005, seven years after CNMC bought Chambishi mine. The firm stated in 2011 that it had made a total about $200m in profits over the years and reinvested it at Chambishi.[36"> Productivity at CNMC’s other mine, CLM, is about the same as at NFCA, so CLM profits are likely to be no higher. As we show in our academic paper, while Kansanshi profits were 25 times those of NFCA, KCM’s profits were 13.2 times those of NFCA and the Australian/Canadian owned Lumwana mines’ profits were 7.7 times as high as NFCA’s. CNMC investments have also been high, due to a unique need for a substantial rehabilitation of the mines it acquired and subsequent expansion. NFCA alone reckons that it has invested US$1.4b since it entered Zambia in 1998.[37"> In contrast, the only mine roughly comparable to NFCA in annual production, Chibuluma, estimated in 2008 that its total investments from 1997-2015 would amount to only $157m.[38">

When factors ignored by HRW, such as contract workers, productivity and profits, are taken into account, the wage gap narrows and is explicable in terms other than what HRW has claimed, namely that CNMC insists on exporting Chinese labour standards to Zambia. The wage gap in the two CNMC processing plants has been wider, but again, is explicable. A group of CCS Chinese employees stated in 2011 that pay is affected by CCS not having its own mine, unlike KCM and MCM, whose production is more than sufficient to feed those firms’ smelters. The 40,000 tons per year production of CNMC-owned mines is insufficient to feed CCS, which opened with a 150,000t per year capacity and is expanding to 250,000t. CCS thus must continue to seek to process, for a small fee, copper from larger firms’ mines.[39"> It was stated in 2011 that ‘the company experienced a shortage of raw materials which were in erratic supply from the mining companies’, that it ‘was also considering putting up a mine which should supply the smelter with raw materials unlike currently where it depended largely on other mining firms’ and that it would have to work with small-scale miners.[40">

MUZ told us in 2011 that CNMC intended to reach the ‘industry standard’ in salaries in 2012.[41"> That does not necessarily involve uniform pay, as a wide range of mining wages is found in most countries; for example, underground miners basic wages in the US in 2010 ranged from $15-$37 an hour.[42"> In January, 2012, NFCA agreed to a 44 per cent raise[43"> and Sino Metals provided a K800,000 pay rise that is a 100-150 per cent increase for the vast majority of its workers.[44"> If the two other CNMC companies follow suit, the wage gap will be significantly diminished, as other firms are apt to agree to smaller increases: Kansanshi’s owners agreed to a 27 per cent increase[45"> and KCM gave 17 per cent to its employees, with the lowest-paid (permanent employee) miner now reportedly receiving K3m a month.[46"> Their respective salary increases mean that in 2012 the lowest-paid NFCA worker will earn almost three-fourths the salary of the lowest-paid permanent worker at the much more profitable KCM.


If the CNMC firms have been worse on pay and about the same on safety and hours, they have been better than other firms on job security, a right ignored by HRW, but deemed very important by workers. There were 63,000 workers in Zambia’s copper mines when the financial crisis hit in late 2008. By spring 2009, 30 per cent (19,000 workers) were laid off, but only by non-CNMC firms.[47"> During the crisis, nearly half the industry’s 20,000 permanent employees were laid-off.[48"> After the recovery, some firms did not hire back many workers they had laid off: KCM had 11,978 of its own employees in 2008, but 9,696 in 2010.[49"> In 2008, MCM had 10,000 of its own employees, but by May 2009 it pared down to 7,500 permanent employees and in 2011 had about 8,250 permanent workers.[50"> CNMC however adopted a ‘three not’s’ (san bu) policy: to not lay off workers, not cut back on planned investment, and not hesitate to make new investments.[51"> CNMC firms not only did not lay off workers, they hired more, when CNMC acquired Luanshya mine during the financial crisis. In contrast, when Luanshya’s former owner, the Swiss firm J&W (Enya) had acquired Luanshya in 2004, it re-hired only 1,000 of the 4,000 workers who had been employed there previously.[52"> It contracted mining development to a South African firm that hired over 1,000 workers at half the regular wage. After CLM took over however, it got rid of the contractor and made the 1,000 workers into CLM’s own employees, doubling their salaries.[53">

If the CNMC firms are worse on some practices, about the same on others and better on still others, one can hardly pretend that they are ‘the worst’. That however is precisely what HRW does. Even when shortcomings in its report, from the standpoint of basic social science methodology, are pointed out, HRW arrogantly rejects every aspect of the critique, making a mockery of its claim that it ‘welcomes any and all critiques of its work…’ The root of HRW’s continuing defense of its report, is politics, in this case the politics of China-bashing.


HRW’s response avers that its ‘report on CNMC in Zambia certainly does not criticize the Chinese government as such, but rather the ‘specific company’ CNMC. That is not so: the HRW report states (p.1) that it ‘begin[s] to paint a picture of China’s broader role in Africa’ and describes itself (p. 13) as ‘a useful magnifying lens into Chinese labor practices in Africa’. Its author told us the report was written in response to enquiries by policymakers, media and human rights advocates about human rights implications of Chinese investments in Africa, not about one ‘specific company’. Western media know the report was intended to say something about China-in-Africa and China more generally, as only specialists would be interested in CNMC activities in Zambia in isolation. The media, following HRW’s cues, have emphasized that ‘China’, ‘the Chinese’ and ‘Chinese companies’ uniquely oppress African workers.

HRW’s approach is perhaps to be expected, as it is exclusively Western-funded and immersed in Western liberal ideology.[54"> That does not preclude it from criticizing the activities of Western governments and sometimes effectively, but it is a critique of a different order from its consistent pattern in about 60 reports of criticizing the Chinese government per se. For example, HRW’s criticism of unpopular Bush administration officials for engaging in torture is not a criticism of the US government (now under a different administration), not to speak of the US-led global hegemony that gives rise to repeated wars on and hardship in countries of the developing world. It is also not surprising that with regard to labour abuses in Zambia, HRW, as a liberalist organization, focuses only on a Chinese SOE, rather than on the privatization of mining, as the chief generative factor in abuses, even though careful studies of the deterioration of workers’ rights in Zambian mining have found that it has been neo-liberal privatization, not actions by companies of one nationality, that has been responsible.[55">

HRW’s report was written in response to queries that probes human rights implications about Chinese investments in Africa. Linking ‘Chinese’ investments with human rights concern smacks racial profiling and reflects China-in-Africa discourse bias. Racial profiling is a form of policing that links criminality and other malpractices with a specific race, ethnicity or national origin. It is thus a wrong question for starting off an investigation. The HRW report addresses this question by singling out CNMC and focusing on its firms’ malpractices, while neither similarly investigating wrongdoing at non-Chinese-owned operations nor comprehensively evaluating how Chinese-owned firms may differ from other companies. With the wrong question to begin with, it goes on to provide wrong answers about matters that implicate abuses such as poor safety conditions, low pay and long hours that are common throughout Zambia’s mining industry. By singling out firms based on nationality and making a conclusion about it, HRW approached its Zambia study differently from how other NGOs have done firm-level studies of foreign copper mining companies there. NGOs that studied KCM did so ‘because of its sheer size’. Their report shows that development of Zambia copper mining has not benefited society at large, but has brought suffering and disadvantages.[56"> They did not focus on KCM because it is UK-based or ethnic Indian-owned, nor did they critically distinguish KCM from other firms. A study of MCM’s misbehavior, while specific, fundamentally questions ‘the link between development and mining in general’ and makes nothing of the fact that MCM is a Swiss citizen or that all its top officers are whites. The study points out moreover that MCM is ‘far from a stand-alone case’.[57"> The HRW report, in contrast, has constructed and promoted a binary of CNMC, as a Chinese firm versus the rest, thereby inserting its report into the skewed China-in-Africa discourse. Having done so, HRW portrays itself to be moderate and balanced.


HRW’s response paints the report as nuanced and avoiding ‘zealous claims from both sides of the “China in Africa” debate…’ The idea is that HRW’s approach is ‘moderate’, while our critique ‘goes far beyond’ what CNMC said in response to the HRW report. The report however is not nuanced; it makes such basic mistakes by ignoring key structural conditions that explain differences between the practices of the CNMC and other firms. The culturalist explanation offered by the HRW report about CNMC behavior is spurious and fanciful. There is a need to go beyond what CNMC itself has said about the report, because CNMC has neither the background in social science nor the political leeway to craft a thoroughgoing critique.

There are not ‘zealous claims from both sides’ in the China-in-Africa discourse. As it stands, in Western politics and media at least, it is a one-sided negative assault on ‘the Chinese’. The scholars who have ably critiqued this discourse[58"> have not done so out of zeal, but because it is empirically inaccurate and politically perilous. The zealots are those who jump into the discourse so as to ‘prove’ that China, even as represented by one firm, is uniquely oppressive in Africa. In doing so, they help to keep alive the racist myths about Chinese cruelty and disregard for human life that have long existed in the West and have been spread to Africa, myths that prevent a focused effort on the actual causes of the grave human rights problems that exist in mining on the continent.


** Barry Sautman is associate professor, Division of Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Yan Hairong is an anthropologist in the Department of Applied Social Sciences, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


[1] Konkola Resources Plc, ‘Announcement of Initital Public Offering on the London Stock Exchange,’: 2, s.d. Nov. 2010?,; Rob Davies, ‘The Other Face of Glencore Mining that Investors Never See,’ Daily Mail (UK), Nov. 21, 2011.
[2] Han Wei and Shen Hu, ‘China’s Harsh Squeeze in Zambia’s Copperbelt,’ Caixin, Nov. 10, 2011,; Han Wei and Shen Hu, ‘Zambian Workers Return to Jobs at Chinese-owned Mine,’ Caixin Online, Oct. 23, 2011,; ‘Chinese-Zambians in Fists of Fury,’ Lusaka Times (Zambia), Mar. 4, 2008.
[3] Interview, Alex Mwale, National Union of Miners and Allied Workers branch chairman at Non-Ferrous Company Africa (NFCA) and local PF politician. Chingola, Aug. 20, 2011. We discuss anti-Chinese violence during strikes and protests at NFCA, CCM, and a KCM construction site in a paper in progress ‘Bashing the Chinese: Contextualizing Zambia’s Collum Coal Mine Shooting.’
[4] See Sarah Hardus, ‘China in Africa: Consequences for Traditional Donor Aid,’ unpub’d M.A. thesis, University of Amsterdam, 2009: 62.
[5] For example, in the US, as to how people evaluate welfare measures, job applicants and politicians. Paul Kellestedt, The Mass Media and the Dynamics of American Racial Attitudes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullianathan, ‘Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination,’ American Economic Review 94:4 (2004): 991- 1013; Spencer Piston, ‘How Explicit Racial Prejudice Hurt Obama in the 2008 Presidential Election,’ Political Behavior 32:4 (2010): 431-451.
[6] Theo Nichols, The Sociology of Industrial Injury (London: Mansell, 1997): 126.
[7] See table ‘Mining Fatalities: All U.S. Mines Accident/Injury Classes’ in ‘Briefing Book for the Niosh Mining Program’ (section 1.4 ‘Research Needs’) (Atlanta: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005), (We calculate fatality ratios for 1990-2004 using 1992-2002 employment figures).
[8] Nicholas Wilson, ‘Economic Growth and the HIV/AIDS Pandemic: Evidence from the Early 21st Century Copper Boom,’ 2010: Table 4, Our estimate of CNMC’s average workforce from 2001-2008 is based on scattered Zambian news reports of the total number of workers (miners, mine construction and other workers whose deaths can be counted as mining fatalities) at NFCA, CCS and Sino-Metals.
[9] ‘Strikes are Avoidable: ZCTU,’ The Post (Zambia), Jan. 12, 2012.
[10] ‘Chinese Firms not that Bad, says Miners’ Union,’ DM, Nov. 4, 2011. See also ‘Minister, Union Defend Chinese Labor Conditions,’ Zambia Watchdog, Nov. 5, 2011 (‘[Deputy Minister of Labor Rayford Mbulu"> says not only Chinese mining companies have been flouting labor laws but all employers should try and ensure their workers are properly looked after’), The statement by the head of NUMAW quoted in HRW’s response that Chinese-run copper mining firms ‘routinely flout the country’s labor laws’ does not at all mean that he does not also believe other firms do likewise.
[11] Action for Southern Africa, et al., ‘Undermining Development? Copper Mining in Zambia, Oct. 2007, pdf/Undermining%20development%20report.pdf; Counter Balance, ‘The Mopani Copper Mine, Zambia: How European Development Money has Fed a Mining Scandal,’ Dec. 2010: 16-17,; Austin Muneku, ‘South African Multinationals in Zambia: the Case of Chibuluma Mines, Plc,’ in Devan Pillay (ed.) ‘South African MNCs Labour and Social Performance’, 2005: 258-283 (275),; Rozemarijn Apotheker, ‘Foreign Copper Mining Companies in Zambia: Who Benefits?’ unpub’d MA thesis, University of Amsterdam, 2009: 63,
[12] Debate, Mar. 22, 2011, www.parliament index.php?option=com_ content&task=view&id=1410& Itemid=86&limit=1& limitstart=1; ‘Shamenda Warns Companies Flouting Labor Laws,’ Daily Mail (Zambia), Nov. 28, 2011.
[13] John Lungu and Sumbye Kapena, ‘South African Mining Corporate Governance Practice in Zambia: the Case of Chibuluma Mine Plc,’ in South African Research Watch, ‘South African Mining Companies in Southern Africa: Corporate Governance and Social Responsibilities,’ 2010, 47-97 (88),
[14] ‘Splinter Unions Setback to Bargaining Power,’ Times of Zambia (TOZ), Dec. 29, 2011.
[15] Matt Wells, ‘China in Zambia: Trouble Down in the Mines,’ Huff Post World, Nov. 21, 2011,
[16] Zambian Development Agency, ‘Labor Considerations,’ s.d., 2006?, /en/content/en/2647/Labour-Considerations.
[17] E-mail from a CCS manager to authors, Nov. 14, 2011.
[18] Undermining Development?: 14-15.
[19] ‘China in Zambia: from Comrades to Capitalists?’ World News Review, October, 2008, http://new-review blogspot.com_10_01_archive.html.
[20] Jean-Christophe Servant, ‘Mined Out in Zambia,’ Le Monde Diplomatique, May 9, 2009.
[21] Kevin van Niekerk, ‘Facing and Overcoming Challenges,’ Discover Zambia 5: 24-29.
[22] ‘Miners Paralyze Kansanshi Ops,’ TOZ, Jan. 3, 2012.
[23] Davies, The Other Face.
[24] ‘Expatriates Face ‘Audit,’’ DM, Jan. 8, 2012.
[25] Counter Balance, The Mopani: 17.
[26] Interview, Venus Seti, Lusaka, Aug. 10, 2011.
[27] Davies, The Other Face.
[28"> ‘Labor Ministry ‘War-Front’ Opens over Minimum Wages,’ TOZ, Oct. 1, 2011.
[29"> ‘KCM Contractors’ Workers Down Tools,’ The Post, Oct. 18, 2011. See also ‘Zambia Conned for Copper,’ Azaonline, Dec. 4, 2011, index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=68:zambia-conned-for-copper&catid=35:demo-content (‘Subcontracted laborers at Vedanta’s KCM mine receive an average of £63 a month [$95">, but often less’); ‘Konkola Copper Mines, Zambia,’, Apr. 18, 2011, (‘some sub-contracted skilled laborers [say"> they are paid as little as £37 per month’), www.banktrack org/show/dodgydeals/konkola _copper _ mines/_blank.
[30"> ‘Miners Paralyze Kansanshi Ops,’ TOZ, Jan. 3, 2012.
[31"> ‘Strike Halts FQM Copper Production,’ DM, Jan. 3, 2012.
[32"> ’Highland Valley Mines,’ 2011,
[33"> ‘Highland Valley Workers Approve ‘Unprecedented’ Five-Year Contract,’ Kamploops Daily News (Canada), Oct. 17, 2011.
[34"> See ‘ZCCM-IH Presentation: 15 June 2011,’ http://forum/ .php?f=78&t =4747.
[35"> Zhang Zhe, ‘Chaoyue zhengyi de Feizhou kaifa: Zhongguo zai Zambiya zhenshi cunzai’ (Beyond the controversy of Africa’s Opening up: China’s actual situation in Zambia), Nanfang Zhuomo, Nov. 4, 2010.
[36"> Han and Shen, China’s Harsh.
[37"> ‘NFCA to Invest $600m in Geology,’ TOZ, Nov. 30, 2010.
[38"> ‘Metorex Investor Visit to Chibuluma Mine,’ Apr. 15, 2008,[1].pdf
[39"> Interview, CCS Chinese employees, Chambishi, Aug. 19, 2011.
[40"> ‘$220m Chambishi Copper Smelter on Track,’ TOZ, Jan. 3, 2012.
[41"> Interview, Charles Mukuka, Acting President, MUZ, Lusaka, Aug. 15, 2011.
[42"> Jack Caldwell, ‘2011 US Mine Wages,’ I Think Mining, Jan. 14, 2011, 01/14/2011-u-s-mine-wages-are-you-earning-your-worth-in-mining./.
[43"> ‘Zambia Copper Mine Unions Accept NFCA’s 44% Pay Hike Offer: Union,’ Dow Jones Network (DJN), Jan. 2, 2012.
[44"> ‘Zambian Miners Agree Labor Deal with Chinese-owned Sino Metals Plant,’ DJN, Jan. 9, 2012; HRW Report: 128.
[45"> ‘Kansanshi Miners Resume Work,’ TOZ, Jan. 6, 2012; ‘Kansanshi Mine Strike Ends,’ DM, Jan. 6, 2012.
[46"> ‘KCM Workers Get 17 p.c. Pay Rise,’ TOZ, Jan. 27, 2012.
[47"> Crispin Matenga, ‘The Impact of the Global Financial and Economic Crisis on Job Losses and Conditions of Work in the Mining Sector in Zambia,’ ILO, Lusaka, 2010: Charles Muchimba, ‘The Zambian Mining Industry: a Status Report Ten Years after Privatization,’ Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Lusaka, 2010: 27.
[48"> Servant, Mined Out; ‘Zambian Copperbelt Reels from Global Crisis,’ Washington Post, Mar. 25, 2009.
[49"> ‘KCM Employees Reduced,’ TOZ, June 1, 2011.
[50"> Zambian Parliament, ‘Report of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Labor . . . September 23, 2010,’: 18, 18; ‘Copper Mine Pares More Jobs,’ TOZ, May 6, 2009; Davies, The Other Face.
[51"> Judith Fessehaie, ‘Development and Knowledge Intensification of Industries Upstream of Zambia’s Copper Mining Sector,’ University of Cape Town, MMCP Discussion Paper No. 3, 2011: 26, MMCP%20Paper%203_0.pdf. See also ‘Chibuluma to Keep Workers,’ TOZ, Dec. 19, 2008.
[52"> ‘Casual Labor Blamed on Weak Policy,’ TOZ, May 1, 2004.
[53"> Gao Xiang interview. Luanshya MUZ branch chairman Stanislas Mwinbe confirmed this information. Interview, Luanshya, Aug. 17, 2011.
[54"> Of donations to HRW, ‘almost 75 percent comes from North America and about 25 percent from Western Europe.’ ‘Human Rights Watch Visit to Saudi Arabia,’ July 17, 2009, node/84512.
[55"> See, e.g., Alastair Fraser and John Lungu, ‘For Whom the Windfalls: Winners and Losers in the Privatization of Zambia’s Copper Mines,’ Civil Society Trade Network of Zambia, 2008, Minewatchzambia.php.
[56"> Undermining Development?
[57"> Counter Balance, The Mopani.
[58"> See, e.g. Deborah Brautigam, The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Ian Taylor, China’s New Role in Africa (Boulder: Lynne Reiner, 2009); Axel Harneit-Sievers, et al. (eds.), Chinese and African Perspectives on China in Africa (Oxford: Fahamu Books, 2010).