IT IS heartening that after protracted discussions between Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) and Mopani Copper Mines (MCM), electricity supply impasse that had put jobs of more than 10,000 miners and other workers on the line has finally been resolved.
On August 11, CEC cut electricity supply to Mopani demanding that the mining firm pays in accordance with the revised tariffs, a position it rejected because of an existing power purchase agreement.
This led to the suspension of operations by Mopani and subsequent threat to lay off 4,700 direct workers if power was not restored.
During the stand-off, Mopani suspended 300 contracts for mine suppliers and contractors and de-activated over 1,000 access cards for workers engaged by the contracted companies.
The suspension of contracts also meant that the 7,000 workers employed by Mopani contractors were to be offloaded onto the streets in due course.
This would have meant more families being relegated to destitution due to loss of jobs.
It would have also meant more school children dropping out of school because their parents would have no income to support them.
We, therefore, commend CEC and MCM for finally finding common ground over the stand-off which was not only threatening the wellbeing of employees and their families but the country’s economy as a whole.
We also commend Government under the leadership of President Lungu for brokering an agreement between the two parties.
The action by Government to intervene in a matter which seemed to have hit a snag has indeed helped to save jobs and the economy.
The intervention has also helped save the companies involved from further undesired revenue losses.
During the impasse, it is estimated that Mopani was losing about US$3 million per day.
This is a huge amount which could have contributed to the company’s productivity and the country’s economy through taxes.
This impasse was much more untimely because it occurred at a time mining companies should be maximising on production given the high price of copper on the international market. Copper is now fetching in excess of US$6,800 per tonne, the highest in about three years.
It is indisputable that while CEC has lost out in terms of electricity revenue, Government has also lost out on tax which should have been remitted by both companies.
In all this, it is evident that all parties involved have lost out – there is no winner.
CEC and Mopani should have, therefore, not allowed the situation to get to this.
They surely could have prevented the loss incurred had they embraced dialogue in the spirit of give and take.
They could have also spared the employees from the emotional trauma of losing their source of livelihoods abruptly.
While some of the losses and damage caused may not be recovered, it is our hope that the parties involved and indeed others will draw lessons from the impasse.
It is always important to look at the bigger picture when faced with critical decisions.
While Government has done a commendable job in laying a foundation for the agreement between CEC and Mopani, it is now up to the two parties to ensure they amicably iron out any differences for continued and long term partnership.