MOPANI Copper Mines has with immediate effect suspended all operations in Mufulira and Kitwe to force Copperbelt Energy Corporation to revert to the old electricity tariffs.
Last week, CEC and Zesco reduced power supply to mining operations of Mopani and First Quantum Minerals after the two mines disputed power tariffs agreed through negotiations with the tariff of US9 cents per kilowatt-hour from the previous US6 cents following Cabinet approval.
According to energy minister David Mabumba, only Mopani Copper Mines, Kalumbila and Kansanshi Mines disputed the new tariffs while the rest of the mines had complied.
Mopani Copper Mines is 73.1 per cent owned by Swiss commodity trader Glencore while First Quantum Minerals owns 16.9 per cent and ZCCM-IH owns 10 per cent.
First Quantum Minerals wholly owns Kalumbila Mines and it is the majority owner of Kansanshi Mines with ZCCM-IH being the other shareholders.
While the three mines were resisting the new tariffs backdated to January 2017, CEC and Zesco had restricted their power consumption equivalent to the money they were paying calculated at the new tariff.
The power restriction had resulted in Mopani evacuating its underground staff and partially closed the mine, leaving only essential operations.
Last Friday, Mopani obtained a court injunction and an order directing CEC to restore power but to no avail.
Mopani has since sent its entire staff away and shut its operating units in Mufulira and Kitwe.
“Mopani Copper Mines Plc wishes to confirm that all production operations in Kitwe and Mufulira have been suspended with immediate effect until the restriction of power supply is resolved,” Mopani public relations manager Nebert Mulenga announced in a statement.
He stated that all employees would continue to be paid during the period.
“Despite an injunction being granted by the courts of law on Friday, 11th August 2017, power has not yet been restored to our assets. This relates to the implementation of new electricity tariffs, which Mopani and other mining companies have contested in court and the courts of law are yet to resolve the matter,” stated Mulenga. “While awaiting the determination of the matter in court, Mopani Copper Mines Plc has continued to consistently pay the tariffs as stipulated in the existing legal contract with CEC. All our employees in affected operations are now being sent home. They will continue to be paid as per their contracts.”