Mines Minister Richard Musukwa says it remains undisputed that government’s marriage with Vedanta Resources Plc has irreparably broken down and that both parties will not be reconciled.
And Musukwa says Konkola Copper Mines Plc (KCM) is safe and that the Liquidation team in place will enhance control measures to ensure that there is no recurrence of the accident that temporarily trapped 28 miners at Shaft One in Chililabombwe.
Asked what government’s position was in terms of the way forward with KCM given that the long, protracted battle in court did not seem to be concluding while the cost of running the mine was escalating, Musukwa said the relationship with Vedanta, KCM’s parent company, remained irreparably broken, and that there was no chance of the two parties reconciling.
“It is indisputable that the marriage with Vedanta has irreparably broken down, and that we are not going back. What we are looking at is for the court process to be expedited. As you know, we are a government of laws, and we envisage that we should be able to find a strategic partner who should be able to work hand-in-hand with institutions, such as ZCCM-IH, to begin the mine afloat once again. Currently, the mine is being sustained in terms of buoyancy and production so we want this to continue,” Musukwa told News Diggers! in an interview in Lusaka, Wednesday.
The minister insisted that KCM remained a safe mine for workers to continue with operations.
Commenting on the 28 miners who were trapped on-site, Monday, as a result of a two-hour power outage, which caused flooding at Shaft One in Chililabombwe, Musukwa regretted the incident, but said that control measures had been enhanced to ensure there was no recurrence of future accidents.
“I must say that our men worked round the clock, and that the mine is safe and that the operation is back to normal. What we’ve done now is to enhance the control measures so that we do not have a recurrence of this unfortunate circumstance. As you know, pumping is very critical for the water system of Konkola. Again, we have also asked our colleagues, the liquidator, to step up the issues of safety, which are becoming a growing concern,” he said.
Musukwa also said the dispute declared by Zesco against CEC over unpaid electricity bills incurred by KCM was of concern.
“Yes, we have concerns, and what is very interesting to note is that, government owns a stake in CEC and we also own a stake in KCM so we have a balance to create. What we’ve told our colleagues, this is a business transaction, we want them to operate optimally by ensuring that services provided are paid for. But also, CEC must understand that we are coming from a strained resource in terms of KCM so you can’t break it; we need to create a balance and provide some timing and we’ve talked to them to see how we can help each other. So, power supply from CEC to KCM will be as normal and we have put a high premium on KCM to ensure that anything they are making, they must be liquidating their indebtedness with CEC for it to remain afloat,” explained Musukwa.
On Monday, Mines Permanent Secretary Barnaby Mulenga explained KCM liquidator has been providing information to government that mine creditors, suppliers and contractors were being paid their dues.
Asked if NAPSA and ZCCM-IH was helping KCM with finances to run operations, Mulenga said there was no such arrangement.
“Before this I was with Ministry of Labour and I sat on the board and never did we approve any funding to KCM. And I just left two months ago… That is what the liquidator has been reporting to us, that creditors are being paid, but that issue again you can squeeze him to answer which ones have been paid. We are not aware of the figures because he doesn’t report to the ministry in terms of this whole liquidation. They are other processes of reporting,”he said.
Asked where the liquidator was getting the money from, given that the smelter was currently down and production was at its lowest, Mulenga said: They have their own operational issues. Right now we are not running mad… but the liquidator will explain to you what is happening on that front. And on the Tailings Leach Plant, it is working. In fact they are producing currently 1 million tones per day,” said Mulenga.