MWILA NTAMBI, Kitwe and CHOMBA MUSIKA, Lusaka
MOPANI Copper Mines (MCM) has suspended its contracts with some suppliers and service providers due to the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC)’s refusal to resume full electricity supply to the mining firm.
But Association of Mine Suppliers and Contractors (AMSC) president Augustine Mubanga has urged MCM to stop using Zambian suppliers and contractors as ‘sacrificial lambs’ in its quest to win the electricity tariff battle with CEC.
Responding to a press query yesterday on whether or not the mining firm has terminated some contracts for suppliers and contractors, MCM public relations manager Nebert Mulenga said the decision has been necessitated by CEC’s failure to honour a legally-binding contract.
“Mopani Copper Mines Plc can confirm that due to the Copperbelt Energy Corporation’s inability to supply Mopani with power for its operations as per the existing legally-binding contract, Mopani has had to suspend a number of contractor agreements,” Mr Mulenga said.
But Mr Mubanga has urged MCM to respect local suppliers and contractors because they have contributed to the enhanced production at the mine.
“They are only targeting Zambian contractors in this exercise of suspending contracts. All contractors from South Africa have not been affected by this decision, and for us we feel they are trying to use Zambian contractors as pawns in their quest to achieve whatever they are fighting for,” he said.
Mr Mubanga said MCM should be level-headed and stop being rigid on the issue of tariffs because it is a well-known fact that electricity tariffs were revised for everyone.
He said MCM should put up its own power plant if it insists on resisting the current tariffs because CEC is also in business and should not start incurring losses just to please one customer.
“They [MCM] should not behave as if they are from another planet. They know that tariffs have been increased and everyone is paying at the new rate. So why should they start threatening employment and the future prospects of this economy?” he wondered.
Mr Mubanga also urged Government to protect the interests of Zambians.
Meanwhile, Minister of Energy David Mabumba is today scheduled to meet MCM management to find a solution to the firm’s refusal to pay the revised electricity tariffs.
On Saturday, President Lungu directed Mr Mabumba and Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Christopher Yaluma to quickly resolve the stand-off between MCM and CEC.
CEC and Mopani are locked in a dispute over the revised electricity tariffs with the mining company insisting that it continues to receive the power at earlier agreed rates and at the same quantity.
The mine has threatened to retrench about 4,700 workers if power supply is limited.
Mr Mabumba said in an interview yesterday that he will meet MCM management today to address the matter.
“We will visit them tomorrow [today] and engage them in good faith. There is still an open page between us and Mopani to dialogue and have a win-win situation over the matter,” he said.
And Mr Mabumba said he hopes rumours that MCM has terminated seven contracts for local suppliers in connection with the revised electricity tariffs are untrue.
“It will be unfair if they have terminated contracts for Zambian suppliers because it’s not Government’s interest to be blackmailed,” he said.
Mr Mabumba said it will be unjustifiable for Mopani to lay off workers due to the revision of power tariffs and operational difficulties.
“Other mining companies also have operational challenges but they are paying the new tariffs and have not laid off workers,” he said.
Mr Mabumba said it is shocking that MCM accused Government of being rigid over the revised electricity tariffs when he had advised the company to liaise with CEC on a flexible payment plan.
Last week, Government warned MCM against going ahead with its plan to lay off 4,700 workers.