NANCY SIAME, Lusaka and NKOMBO KACHEMBA, Kitwe
COPPERBELT Energy Corporation (CEC) and Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) have resolved the electricity supply impasse that had put the jobs of more than 10,000 miners and other workers on the line.
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.
But after protracted discussions, State House said in a statement yesterday that the two parties had agreed, leading to resumption of full power supply to the mining firm.
This follows Government’s intervention into the stand-off which saw Mopani threaten to lay off over 4,700 workers if CEC did not resume full electricity supply to the mine. Other workers would have been affected and those employed by contractors.
“The agreement, which has been facilitated by Government, is to be amicably concluded between MCM and CEC over an agreed period of six weeks. During the same period, Mopani and Government will also conclude other outstanding matters on Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds and transfer pricing disputes,” reads a statement issued yesterday by special assistant to the President for press and public relations Amos Chanda.
Minister of Finance Felix Mutati, his Energy counterpart David Mabumba and Minister of Mines and Mineral Development Christopher Yaluma facilitated the talks which went on late into Tuesday night.
Mr Chanda said Mopani will inform labour unions that negotiations are taking place in good faith and should, therefore, not panic.
“All other matters incidental to the power impasse will be addressed by Mopani management,” he said.
Glencore Limited directors, the owners of Mopani, were represented in the meeting by Telis Mistakidis who flew in from Geneva, while CEC was led by chief executive officer, Owen Silavwe.
Earlier on Tuesday, President Lungu had a meeting with Glencore directors during which the situation at Mopani was discussed, Mr Chanda said.
MCM and CEC have had an intense difference over the revised electricity tariffs which the former refused to pay, resulting in restricted power supply to the mine’s operations.
Meanwhile, the labour movement in the mining sector has commended President Lungu for Government’s intervention in the impasse.
The dispute between Mopani and CEC resulted in the suspension of 300 contracts for mine suppliers and contractors and the de-activation of over 1,000 access cards for workers engaged by the contracted companies.
National Union of Mines and Allied Workers national treasurer Saul Simujika said in an interview yesterday that Government’s intervention in the matter shows how responsible it is in resolving matters affecting the welfare of miners.
Mr Simujika has urged MCM to lift the suspension on the 300 contracts for mine suppliers and contractors, and re-activate the electronic access cards for workers so that they can resume their duties.
Mopani contractors employ more than 7,000 workers.
“We thank Government for intervening in the matter. This shows that we have a responsible government,” he said.
United Mineworkers Union of Zambia president Wisdom Ngwira said if Government had not intervened, MCM could have gone ahead to lay off 4,700 workers.
“Government is like a parent and when children are crying, it has to listen to their cries. This is exactly what President Lungu has done,” Mr Ngwira said.
And National Ex-miners and Allied Workers Association of Zambia president Taulo Chewe has thanked President Lungu for saving jobs at MCM by intervening in the contractual dispute between the mine and CEC.
“Had it not been for the good leadership of President Lungu, Mopani Copper Mines could have offloaded more people on the streets. This is a good gesture by the government,” Mr Chewe said.