MMD deputy spokesperson Peter Phiri says people should not just make populist statements and demonise the investors running Konkola Copper Mines but find ways of resolving issues surrounding the downsizing operations and workforce at the mining giant.
In statement, Phiri observed that KCM was still a viable mining company which should not be allowed to remain a white elephant like what happened to Luanshya Copper Mines.
He said there was need for stakeholders to address issues surrounding operations at KCM objectively and critically.
“I have been following the unfolding events in the mining companies on the Copperbelt. It is unfortunate that there have been populist statements coming from the mine unions, KCM management, and the Zambian government. As a person that was born and bred in the mining towns, I feel that KCM is still a very viable mining company. Before rushing to repossessing the mining giant and demonise the investor, I think there’s need for stakeholders to be objective and critically analyse issues that have made KCM to slow down on operations and downsizing the workforce,” Phiri stated. “Instead of making populist statements over the matter, I think it is not too late for all stakeholders involved in this matter to engage each other and strike a win-win situation. We need to avoid the repeat of what happened at Luanshya Copper Mine where workers remained jobless and operations could not be fully sustainable despite placing the mining company under care and maintenance.”
He said it was unfortunate that it had to take the Head of State to take such a drastic measure of repossessing Konkola Copper Mines when there were other stakeholders that are mandated to provide foresight on the operations of mining companies in the country.
He accused labour unions in the mining industry and ZCCM Investment Holdings of failing to live up to their mandate of protecting the interests of workers and the Zambian government, respectively.
“When all is said and done, I strongly feel that the labour unions have been a let down to the government for failing to protect the interests of workers by not raising an alert the moment they noticed that there was something wrong in the operations at KCM,” Phiri said. “Last year, I did say that most labour unions in the mining industry have been commercialised such that one union has even established a milling plant. The people mandated to run ZCCM-IH have also been a let down to the Zambian government. They should find out why KCM has been demanding for VAT refunds from ZRA and why they are not willing to pay the newly introduced Sales Tax and so on. It is unfortunate that it had to take the Head of State to make a drastic decision of repossessing KCM.”
Phiri called for the establishment of a task force to carry out an inventory of assets at KCM to avoid a situation where people are stripping equipment at the mining company.
“We are also aware that some individuals want to plunder the assets at KCM. So instead of just instructing the Zambia Police officers to surround the mining plant, there’s need to go a step further and establish a task force that can carry out an inventory of machinery and other assets at KCM in order to ensure that there’s no stripping off equipment,” said Phiri. “This country has got a lot of trained mining engineers, artisans and technicians that can form part of the proposed taskforce. We have to bear in mind that Konkola Cooper Mines is the biggest open pit mine in this country. It requires trained individuals to run this mining firm. And if people think that they will be given an opportunity to run this mine without expertise like is the case with the famous or infamous Black Mountain, they are mistaken.”
On Tuesday, government placed KCM under liquidation on alleged failure to honour tax obligations.
ZCCM-IH filed a winding up petition in the Lusaka High Court pursuant to section 56 of the corporate insolvency Act.
Milingo Lungu of Messrs Lungu, Simwanza and Company has been appointed as provisional liquidator of the mining company to protect the company’s business and assets for the purpose of winding up pending hearing the matter.