MOPANI Copper Mines has reportedly introduced a new food supplement to the miners’ menu which they have rejected because it is igniting high sexual drive and insomnia. The miners are sceptical about the food supplement called Future Life High Energy Nutrient Dense, which they say the company is forcing them to take. They claim the mine wants to increase working hours from eight to 12 and that the company feels the new food supplement will help the miners cope with the increased hours of work. The miners further allege that Mopani is conducting trials on them to see how they are responding to the food supplement in terms of energy levels.
They say the company is forcing them to take part in the trial and that those who have taken the food supplement are complaining of constipation, insomnia and high libido. Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) president Joseph Chewe said in an interview yesterday that he is aware of the complaints by miners regarding the food supplement. He said the matter is being handled by union officials at branch level because the top leadership only deals with policy matters and not operational ones.
Mr Chewe said MUZ top leaders have advised branch officials to formally write to them, should they fail to address the problem. “So, if they fail to address the matter, we will move in to address the matter,” he said. MUZ general secretary George Mumba said during a meeting recently, Mopani management indicated that it intended to increase working hours from eight to 12 but that the issue of the food supplement was not discussed. Mr Mumba said the mine wants to increase working hours in an effort to boost copper production.
He said according to information from branch officials, the mine has introduced a food supplement to boost energy levels in miners. Mr Mumba said currently, the miners only eat a local bun called Kampopo and cocoa but that management thought of adding the new food supplement to boost their energy levels.
He said the mine has also indicated to branch officials on the study it intends to conduct on miners regarding the food supplement. “So they have informed the local leadership that they will pick 40 miners in Kitwe and another 40 in Mufulira for the study,” he said. And a union official at branch level, who also works at Mopani, confirmed that the trials on the efficacy of the food supplement started on Monday this week. “We rejected the food supplement but they are imposing it on us. This food supplement is causing all sorts of reactions on workers, with some having high sexual appetite,” he said.
The worker wondered why the mine could not engage the Ministry of Health on the study it is conducting on miners. Copperbelt director of health Robert Zulu is not aware of the trials or studies being conducted on miners. Dr Zulu said trials or studies on human beings are supposed to be done with authority from the Tropical Disease Research Institute. He said the institute has an ethics committee which looks at various studies and that it is mandated to authorise such ventures.
“I am hearing about that food supplement and the study for the first time, am not aware of anything,” Dr Zulu said. Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development Permanent Secretary Bernaby Mulenga is equally not aware of the food supplement and the study Mopani is reportedly undertaking on miners.
Mr Mulenga will soon send officers in the ministry to Mopani to investigate the matter. “I am hearing about this food supplement for the first time, I will have to send my officers on the ground,” he said. When contacted for a comment, Mopani public relations manager Nebert Mulenga asked for a press query which could not be responded to by press time yesterday.