By Chris Mfula
LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s president Hakainde Hichilema said on Tuesday he was still hopeful that at least 25 informal miners trapped four days ago by a mudslide at an open-pit copper mine were still alive, as rescue efforts continued.
The miners at Seseli Mine in Chingola, about 400 km (250 miles) northwest of Lusaka, were trapped in three locations and heavy rains had flooded the pit, the government said.
“I want to send a clear message that we should not mourn yet because God is a God of wonders,” Hichilema told a gathering of thousands of people, including families of the trapped miners in Chingola.
The mine was previously owned by Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) but is now in the hands of a local company that is yet to start mining operations as it awaits safety and environmental approvals.
“Here there is no illegal miner. Our job is to take our people out of the pit,” Hichilema said.
It was still not clear how many miners had been trapped but Mines Minister Paul Kabuswe said on Monday 25 families had so far come forward to claim missing relatives who were working when the accident happened.
“Our commitment is to do everything to save the lives that are down there,” Hichilema said.
Rescue workers, including military personnel and others from large-scale mining companies, were being cautious due to soft ground, slowing down the operation.
(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Nelson Banya and Alexandra Hudson)