HONE SIAME, Lusaka
COPPER prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME) have hit US$6,325 per tonne for the first time in two years with stakeholders urging mining companies to recall workers they laid off when metal prices plummeted.
Copper, Zambia’s major foreign exchange earner, has been trading below U$S6,000 per tonne on the international market, resulting in massive job losses in the mining sector, particularly in November 2015.
According to the LME, prices of the red metal leaped to US$6,325 per tonne by the end of July, much to the excitement of mine workers’ unions and other stakeholders.
The last time copper prices breached the US$6,200 mark was in January 2015, when the mineral sold at US$6,200 by the end of the first week of January that year.
Since then, prices of the commodity have steadily plunged over a two-year period to hit lows of around US$4,500, triggered largely by a slowdown in the Chinese economy and reduced demand.
Mineworkers Union of Zambia general secretary Joseph Chewe and National Union of Miners and Allied Workers president James Chansa described the rise in copper prices as remarkable.
“We can only urge the mining companies to increase their production and continue investing in capital expansion projects,” Mr Chewe said.
He said the rise in copper prices should also translate in improved living standards for Zambians through, among other things, recalling miners who lost jobs when copper process dropped.
And Mr Chansa said in a separate interview that the labour movement in the mining sector is eager to see Zambia reaping the benefits of increased copper prices which should trickle down to citizens.
“We expect mining companies to start employing the workers who lost jobs during that difficult time when copper prices dropped on the international market. We want to see the benefits going down to Zambians and the country at large,” Mr Chansa said.
He also urged mining firms to continue with their capital expansion projects and start operating completed ones to boost job and wealth creation.
Mr Chansa said mining companies should also start giving jobs to contractors and suppliers to enable them to continue making positive contributions to the country’s development.
According to the Central Statistical Office data, Zambia’s copper exports by volume have equally increased, corresponding with rising prices on the international market during the first half of 2017.