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n Historia - After the deluge : appraising the 1970 Mufulira mine disaster in Zambia

Volume 64 Number 2
  • ISSN : 0018-229X
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Abstract

This article endeavours to position the Mufulira mine disaster in the wider historiography of mining in post‐colonial Zambia. In the early hours of 25 September 1970, about two million tonnes of water, and slimes cascaded into the main working area of the Mufulira copper mine on the Zambian Copperbelt. It choked the mine’s main and intermediate haulages, and put three incline shafts, an ancillary crusher, and pumping stations out of action. This deluge, the worst mine disaster in the country’s mining history, resulted in the death of 89 miners and had the subsequent socio‐economic effect of having to resettle their widows and orphans. The cataclysm also led to a cut, by as much as 50 per cent, of the nation’s copper production, its main foreign exchange earner. The resultant reduction in government revenue generation due to a decline in copper production had a severe impact on the nation’s fiscus. But most importantly, this tragedy occurred at a time of serious socio‐political challenges in the newly independent state of Zambia. While the incident at Mufulira was costly to shareholders, the state, and the affected families, it also became a blessing in disguise because its aftermath set new standards in mine safety on the Copperbelt as well as in the rest of the mining industry.

Hierdie artikel poog om die plek van die Mufulira‐mynramp binne die breëre mynbouhistoriografie van post‐koloniale Zambië te bepaal. In die vroeë oggendure van 25 September 1970 het ongeveer twee miljoen ton water en slik die hoofwerkgebied van die Mufulira‐kopermyn in die Zambiese Koperstreek oorstroom. Die slik het die hoof‐ en tussenvervoerstelsel van die myn verstop en het drie skuinsskagte, ‘n bystandklipbreker en pompstasies buite werking gelaat. Hierdie vloed, die ergste mynramp in die land se myngeskiedenis, het die dood van 89 mynwerkers veroorsaak en bykomende sosio‐ekonomiese gevolge gehad met die hervestiging van hulle weduwees en weeskinders. Die ramp het ook tot ’n afname van tot soveel as 50 persent in die koperproduksie, die belangrikste buitelandse valutaverdiener, van die land gelei. Die gevolglike daling in die generering van owerheidsinkomste as gevolg van ’n afname in koperproduksie, het ’n invloed op die fiskus van die land gehad. Van groter belang is dat hierdie tragedie in ’n tyd van ernstige sosiopolitieke uitdagings in die nuut‐onafhanklike Zambiëstaat plaasgevind het. Terwyl die Mufulira‐mynramp die aandeelhouers, die staat en die gesinne van die gestorwe mynwerkers negatief beïnvloed het, het dit ook positiewe veranderinge tot gevolg gehad deurdat nuwe mynveiligheidstandaarde in die Koperstreek en die res van die mynbedryf ingestel is.

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/content/journal/10520/EJC-1aa004db49
2019-11-01
2020-09-25

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