Mines minister Richard Musukwa says the closure of Mopani Copper Mines’ Mufulira smelter won’t result in job losses.

Responding to a question from Mufulira PF member of parliament Dr Evans Chibanda on the prolonged closure of the Mopani Copper Mines smelter in Mufulira and the repercussion of the closure on the workforce, Musukwa said affected employees had been redeployed and the remaining would be put on paid leave.

“Mr Speaker, the government of the Republic of Zambia is aware that Mopani has shut its smelter in Mufulira. The company formally wrote the Ministry of Mines on 19th June, 2019 of the shutdown and this is as provided for in the Mines and Minerals Act of 2015. Mr Speaker, the unexpected shutdown of the smelter was necessitated by the malfunctioning of the furnace. Mr Speaker, the repercussion on the labour force will be that the majority of the workers will be redeployed to other units of the mine while a few workers will be placed on paid leave until this process is concluded. Mr Speaker, as provided for by the Mines and Minerals Act, the ministry will conduct an investigation to verify the causes of the closure and the period it will take to rectify the problem. Depending on the result of the verification process, the government will engage Mopani on how best it will quicken the process of refurbishing the furnace,” Musukwa said.

And when asked on whether the closure of the smelter would affect the economy, the minister said there could be some losses.

“Mr Speaker, We might not be able to give outright figures in terms of the losses but I would like to indicate that government is mindful of this challenge and this challenge, Mr Speaker, has largely been necessitated as a result of what you would call an emergency process of working on the smelter because this was not a planned shutdown. The planned shutdown for this operation was September so it came rather too early,” he said.

And in response to Kantanshi MP Anthony Mumba on preparedness of the ministry taking into consideration the revenue that might be lost due to the shutdown, Musukwa said government was hoping that the losses would be mitigated buy help from sister companies to keep Mopani’s operations going.

“The losses envisaged to be created will have to be mitigated because in essence, Mopani’s production is not being affected. Mopani will continue to produce, in fact, they already have a lot of stockpile production what we have asked Mopani as we have been discussing with them is to ensure that they take this material to other facilities around the country in order to process on their behalf. This is a common practice, you will note Mr Speaker, that several mining houses do not have the capacity and they rely on the capacities of their sister mining companies so we are hoping that the losses will be mitigated by this process,” he said.

Meanwhile, Musukwa when asked by Lupososhi MP Lazarous Chungu on whether the happenings at KCM should be expected at Mopani, Musukwa said the prevailing circumstances at the two mines were totally different.

Mr Speaker, first of all, I would like to allay the fears expressed by Lupososhi member of parliament as regards the operation of KCM and Mopani, these are 2 different issues because the smelter that we are talking about Mr Speaker, is a state of the art smelter like Dr Chibanda did allude to. It is like a car which is always scheduled for routine service, for this smelter in particular, from Mopani data shows that it wa scheduled for routine maintenance in September, however, the challenge is that it is two to three months out schedule as it developed a malfunction in the furnace. These are technical machines which can develop a fault anytime and what has actually caused the period to be long is the procurement of spares in order to service this equipment, so the picture, Mr Speaker, must not be as gloomy as my colleague is putting it, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If they can finish before six months, it will be well and good,” said Musukwa.