THE death of three boys who were buried alive after a manganese mine caved in makes sad reading especially that the victims have met their brutal fate before they could unleash their potential endowed in them.
It is highly baffling that a boy as young as 11 years old can venture into mining, which is one of the most dreaded industries worldwide.
We understand and appreciate the fact that poverty levels have continued to soar especially in rural areas like Luapula, where the cold hand of death has robbed the nation of would-be future leaders, but for the boys to opt mining is too extreme.
According to the police, the incident happened on Saturday in Samfya district around 14:00 hours at a named manganese mine where mine caved in and buried alive Felix Kalembe, Stanislaus Kope and Kelvin Kope while the fourth boy survived as he left the mine shortly before the incident.
The deceased boys were in grades two and three at Chamawala primary school in Chief Mwewa’s area.
However, regardless of circumstances that forced the lads to opt for manganese mining as a means of survival, it is highly strange that a minor can be involved in such an industry which demands high expertise; and modern technology and equipment.
It will be interesting to know how the boys found themselves in the mine, owned by some women, because their age was too far from people who are normally expected to engage themselves in a risky venture that has claimed a number of miners even in well-established and highly organized mines.
Now that Minister of Mines Richard Musukwa has instructed the Mines Safety Department (MSD) to investigate the legality of the mine’s operations, culprits should be brought to book and appropriate action must be taken depending on findings of the probe.
If the juveniles were employed by the mine owners, the latter must be punished for child labour and indicted for relevant offences.
If the victims went in the mine illegally, relevant authorities must ensure that the mines are safeguarded accordingly to deter all would-be illegal miners from entering the mining zones to thwart preventable and premature deaths.
We convey our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and may the souls of the departed boys rest in peace but for now safeguard those manganese mines, which have proved to be death traps as this is not the first time such an incident has happened.