Sata warns Konkola Copper Mines
Zambian President Michael Sata has warned mining firms against blackmailing his administration and has since threatened one of the firms that it risks losing its license if it fires its workers, a statement released by his office.
Last week, Konkola Copper Mines Plc, a unit of London-listed Vedanta Mining Group, announced that it will lay off 1 529 workers in line with its continued restructuring of operations. The company said it was moving towards mechanisation and automation in view of decreased copper grades at some of its mines.
But Sata said his government will not allow the mining giant to fire even one miner and threatened to revoke its licences if it went ahead. The Zambian leader said his administration was aware that the mining firm wanted to use blackmail following the government’s decision to stop the export of copper concentrates.
The Mineworkers Union of Zambia has since expressed concern over the decision by the mining giant to shed off some of its labour force, saying it was a sign of failure to run the mine because if it was resorting to retrenchment then the future of the mine was not certain.
The mining firm has been at loggerheads with authorities in recent months following some of its unorthodox moves it has taken. In June this year, the company was stopped from going ahead with its plan to lay off 2 000 workers due to what it described as low copper prices on the international market. Last month, the company irked the government when it wanted to deduct from its workers’ money so that it could offset arrears it had accrued with the revenue collection authority in form of Pay As You Earn which it has not been remitting. In 2010, the company was fined US$4,449 for having polluted a river on the Copperbelt Province. The company, which employs about 8,500 miners, produces about 2 million tonnes of copper ore per year.
(The Herald, Lusaka)