Friday, January 22, 2010

Chinese state miners reject African slavery claim

The Chinese government said it will maintain strict management of its overseas mining businesses, after a Zambian politician criticized PRC firms in the country. "We have strict business principles for firms operating overseas," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said as quoted by Xinhua. "We require them to foster a harmonious relationship with local people by respecting local laws and culture. They must fulfill their corporate social responsibility and safeguard their local employees' legitimate rights."

Ma's comments came a day after Michael Sata, leader of Zambia's main opposition Patriotic Front, slammed Chinese and other Asian mining firms operating in Zambia and warned that special tax status and "economic zones" granted to outside investors were a political and racial powderkeg.

However, Zambian Mines Minister Maxwell Mwale dismissed Sata's claims that Chinese mine bosses were replicating China's poor mine safety and "slave labor" conditions in Africa, but he did admit to a difference in approaches. "The Chinese are operating just as well as any other investor in this country," he told Reuters. "They have their own home-country culture, and we, as a host country, have our host-country culture."

Sydney Chileya, spokesman for Luanshya Copper Mines, a unit of China Nonferrous Metals Mining Corporation, said the firm was offering reasonable wages. "As far as we are concerned, we are operating well within the Zambian labor laws," Chileya told Reuters. "Our lowest paid of the 2,300 employees get 1.2 million kwacha ($272.4) per month, and that is way above the stipulated minimum wage of 260,000 kwacha ($59) per month."

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