THE Zambia Chamber of Mines says if the pricing mechanism and tariff setting system for electricity sales to the mines was transparent, the recent dispute between Mopani Copper Mines and Copperbelt Energy Corporation could have been averted.
And Zambia Chamber of Mines (ZCM) president Nathan Chishimba says “with what is happening in Zambia,” the option of mining companies sourcing for alternative power is becoming increasingly attractive.
Two weeks ago, a protracted dispute between Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) and the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) emerged after the mining firm ‘resisted’ to pay hiked power tariffs.
As the standoff lingered, MCM announced that it was going to dismiss 4, 700 workers as the continued restriction of power supply by the CEC resulted in it downsizing its mining activities.
The matter has since been resolved after President Edgar Lungu’s intervention.
Asked to comment on the merits and demerits of the CEC-MCM impasse, Chishimba said he could not comment on that dispute because the Chamber was not privy to fine details of the matter.
“Mopani have their reasons for having approached the matter the way they did. But from the Chamber perspective, we feel that if the pricing system, the tariff setting system is transparent, if it’s efficient, if it shows a method that is very objective, there is no need for these disputes to arise. But what causes these disputes is that on the one hand, the supplier says one thing [and] on the other hand the consumer perceives it as another thing,”
Chishimba explained when he featured on Diamond TV’s Costa programme hosted by Costa Mwansa on Sunday evening.
“As a Chamber, our position is that we should arrive at a point where we set this tariff issue in a manner that is transparent, objective and acceptable to all.”
On why mining firms did not deal directly with Zesco, Chishimba noted that that it was a policy question of how the government decided to structure the electricity supply industry.
“As you know, CEC is a carry-over of the former Power Division of the ZCCM [Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines]. I do not know the policy dynamics around that issue. But we are where we are and we have to deal with CEC,” he said.
And when asked on mining companies considering alternative sources of power, Chishimba confirmed hearing such plans.
“I have heard of those arrangements but then that may border on some of the decisions that the ERB (Energy Regulation Board) is able to make. But certainly if there was a situation that arose where mining companies could source power cheaper from outside Zambia, I think it’s an option that is becoming increasingly attractive, with what we are seeing in Zambia,”