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Glencore must account for unreported deaths at its Zambia mines

IndustriALL has received reports of three deaths at Glencore’s Zambian operations in 2017. Glencore has reported only one fatality and Glencore’s Zambian subsidiary claims it was fatality-free.

Glencore mines for copper in Zambia through its majority shareholding in Mopani Copper Mines.

Glencore chief executive officer Ivan Glasenberg remarked on Glencore’s 2018 first quarter earnings call about the company’s health and safety performance in 2017, stating “the one area we did have a lot of success is African Copper where we only had one fatality in 2017, which is the lowest in history in one of these asset regions and this is where we have spent a lot of work. It seems that we’re achieving success there…”

At Glencore’s annual general meeting on 2 May, after IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan raised concern about the accuracy of Glencore’s health, safety and environment (HSE) reporting, Glencore chairman Tony Hayward stated “I take complete issue with you on the quality of our HSE reporting…I refute completely your assertion that they are somehow not representative of what’s going on at our operations.”

IndustriALL conducted a mission to Glencore’s Zambia copper mines in March 2018 and interviewed numerous Mopani employees. IndustriALL has received reports from Mopani workers and managers of the three deaths in 2017.

One occupational fatality involved a worker who died from a blood clot after a steel support structure he was erecting fell on and fractured his leg on 14 July 2017. Glencore concluded in its investigation report that causes of the incident included a lack of planning the task, no risk assessment was conducted, no qualified persons were engaged in the task and there was no authorization for the job by a qualified engineer.

A second occupational fatality involved a worker who reportedly previously was employed by Mopani and returned to Glencore as a contractor after his normal retirement age. He collapsed and died underground while at work at Mopani’s Mufulira Mine in 2017. The cause of death was apparently not determined with certainty though workers suspect heat stroke. Mopani denies this although no post mortem was conducted.

Mopani retrenched over four thousand workers in 2015, and some of the remaining miners must frequently work 24 hours straight underground.

A child who was not employed at the site drowned in a Mopani pond near one of the tailings dams on 11 June 2017. Although this was not an occupational fatality, it is a certainly a fatality that should have been mentioned in Glencore’s reporting.

Glencore employees in Zambia report that Mopani has claimed Mopani was fatality-free in 2017. They also report that Glencore threatened to close the mine if there was a fatality in 2017. Glencore reported in February that it had nine fatalities from nine incidents globally in 2017, including one in Zambia.

Stated IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches in a letter to Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg:

“Glencore needs to publicly account for the three deaths at its Zambian mines in 2017 and explain why it only reported one of these while its subsidiary reported none. Glencore also should cease its widespread practice of threatening negative consequences for reporting of health and safety incidents since this promotes underreporting rather than prevents fatalities.”

“Workers at Glencore’s mines in Bolivia, where Glencore reported two fatalities in 2017, also told IndustriALL that Glencore threatened to close the mines if there were further accidents. We encourage Glencore to do a thorough review of its fatality reporting in Zambia, Bolivia and other locations where it has suppressed the reporting of accidents through threatening negative consequences for doing so.”

“The fact that both Glencore workers who died at Mopani in 2017 were contractors raises serious questions about Glencore management of its contractors, especially since one of the workers who died underground was reportedly past his retirement age. Questions about Glencore contractor management are significant given the number of contractors as a percentage of Glencore’s total workforce has increased dramatically in recent years,” added Sanches.


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