May 9, 2015
When critics of the Chinese in Africa make their case, the Collum coal mine in Zambia is invariably on their list of grievances. The controversial mine has been the site of violent labor disputes that have severely injured, even killed, both Zambians and Chinese. After a three-year closure, the mine re-opened in April amid concerns the labor and environmental violations that prompted its closing in 2012 remain un-resolved. President Edgar Lungu, for his part, said there is no reason to worry and that the "government would not hesitate to close the mine once again if there is no improvement of operations.” The Collum coal mine, for the most part, is largely insignificant in the broader context of China's engagement in Africa. It doesn't produce much coal and what it actually does extract is of relatively low quality. Nonetheless, the mine has become a symbol of the difficulties and promise of the Chinese in Africa. This week, Eric & Cobus speak with two of the world's leading experts on Sino-Zambia relations and the Collum coal mine in particular. Professor Barry Sautman of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Dr. Yan Hairong of Hong Kong Polytechnic University explain why they are not optimistic about the future of the Collum mine and why any expectations that-held grievances have been resolved should be limited.