[By Charles Tembo in Kitwe]
MINES minister Richard Musukwa says government has rejected plans by Metorex Limited, a company running Chibuluma Copper Mines, to place its operations on care and maintenance.
And 400 miners at Lubambe Copper Mines in Chililabombwe have lost jobs after the mine terminated the contract of its major supplier Redpath after a dispute.
Musukwa, who confirmed of having received a notice from Metorex, said the government would not allow the mine to send people on the street.
He said the reasons given by Metorex have nothing to do with the COVID-19.
“Yes Metorex has informed government. But the reasons for placing the mine on care and maintenance have nothing to do with COVID, but something to do with depleted resources. As government we have opened discussions with Metorex to provide some terms to avoid sending people on the streets,” Musukwa said.
And Musukwa said Lubambe Copper Mines should put the interest of the workers first before its dispute with Redpath.
“Lubambe as a parent company should protect the interest of the workers while they have a dispute with Redpath. In this critical time mining companies are reducing the cost profile not workers. We don’t want the mines to use workers as the sweeping rock under these critical times. Lubambe, Metorex and Mopani should protect the workers,” he said.
Musukwa also said the decision by Mopani to place its Kitwe and Mufulira mines on care and maintenance was an illegality.
Musukwa said the 90 days’ notice given by Mopani Copper Mines was not meant to stop operations.
“We have noted that the Mine had intended to put its mines on care and maintenance. But government takes great exception to such moves. We need to sit down and dialogue and provide a sustainable way of doing things during this critical time and ensure that the workers on the Copperbelt and North Western [provinces], that their, jobs are guaranteed and protected and ensure that mines are sustained,” he said.
“So the ministers of finance, mines, and labour will be on the Copperbelt to ensure that this is done well. We also welcome Zambians that will come on board with information that will help the sector navigate during this time – to provide information. What we want as government is to be inclusive and allow a broad spectrum of Zambians to be involved as we structure forward during this critical time.”
Musukwa said Mopani Copper Mines should look at survival modes.
“One key element is to ensure that Mopani reduces its operating costs. We would like to speak survival modes and it is to use local contractors who are at low cost. The 90 days’ notice is not meant to stop operations. It is meant to ensure that a survival mode is structured, that is in the spirit of the law,” he said.
Musukwa said the government was also monitoring the mining of gold at Kasenseli in North Western Province.
He said the government would not allow individuals to benefit alone from the gold at the expense of the Zambian people and the treasury.