NANCY SIAME, Lusaka
MOPANI Copper Mines (MCM) has announced plans to scale down operations which will see 4,700 workers retrenched due to the continued restriction of power supply by the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC).
But Government has described as unfortunate threats by MCM to retrench workers if the company does not get preferential treatment and yet ordinary Zambians are paying cost-reflective electricity charges.
MCM public relations manager Nebert Mulenga said it has become necessary for the mining company to curtail some areas of operation due to power restrictions.
Mr Mulenga said in a statement issued yesterday that although the company is working on optimising the use of the limited power it has been receiving, it will close down several operations.
“We are engaging the unions and other stakeholders to see how we can mitigate the effects of this unavoidable course of action,” he said.
He said the company has continued to negotiate with CEC and Zesco but the company is unable to maintain the workforce without power supply to its operations.
Mr Mulenga said the mine is operating under a Power Supply Agreement (PSA) dated March 31, 2000, that was amended on March 6, 2015, and is valid until 2040.
He said the PSA provides that a tariff may be increased on agreement by both parties like was the case in 2008 when MCM agreed to a tariff increment of 33 percent.
“The current proposed revision would result in a further increase of 54 percent,” Mr Mulenga said.
Mr Mulenga said within the provisions of the agreement, there are clear steps to be taken in the event of an impasse on tariffs which has allegedly not been taken by CEC, and efforts to compel them to abide by the PSA have failed.
He said MCM has some of the wettest underground copper operations in the world and each day, 190 million litres of water has to be pumped to ensure safety of the workers.
“The pumping alone represents almost 25 percent of the mine’s total power costs.
“Without a stable power supply, our ability to safely conduct our operations is hindered,” Mr Mulenga said.
And Minister of Energy David Mabumba has said it is unfortunate that MCM is threatening to retrench workers despite them agreeing to negotiate with CEC.
Mr Mabumba said in an interview yesterday that he does not understand why the mining company is reluctant to pay new tariffs when other mines are doing so.
“If other mines are paying, how do we give special consideration to one mine? Ordinary Zambians are also paying new tariffs which will be further increased next month, it will be unfair to subsidise the mines,” he said.
And NKWETO MFULA reports from Chingola that Government will not accept any loss of employment at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) following the mining firm’s proposal to embark on outsourcing jobs.
Chief government spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga said Government does not take pride in people losing jobs in any sector.
“Government rejoices when there are jobs being created for the people, “she said.
Ms Mulenga said in response to Chingola mayor Titus Tembo who informed her that miners are worried that they might lose their jobs when KCM embarks on outsourcing jobs.
Miners fear that they will lose their jobs following KCM’s proposal to start outsourcing jobs for the mining firm.
Meanwhile, Ms Mulenga has said President Lungu is committed to improving the roads in Chingola, and the country as a whole.
“This is the reason President Lungu came to Chingola to launch the C400 project in this mining town,” she said.
Earlier, Chingola district commissioner Mary Chibesa said works on road rehabilitation have started in Chingola.
“Two of the three contractors are on site and have started the works,” she said.