MINES and Mineral Resources Minister Richard Musukwa says Vedanta must accept the loss of KCM and move on because he has already instructed Provisional Liquidator Milingo Lungu to quickly find an equity partner to take over the asset.
And Musukwa says Vedanta irreparably injured its social license to operate in Zambia and should stop dramatising its engagements in the country on international platforms.
In an interview, Musukwa charged that Vedanta thought it could prolong the arbitration process and fatigue the Zambian government into giving the mine back.
“As you know, there are multiple legal issues that have been undertaken by Vedanta from different platforms and jurisdictions. And when we started the entire process, we were aware that they will not give up easily and their resolve, in fact, for your own information, they have built a propaganda media team dedicated over this matter, hosted in South Africa. The idea is for them to prolong the matter and in the process, they were hoping that government can be fatigued, but we will not. At a platform where we get that window, like in our jurisdictions to proceed with an equity partner, and if there is no process that stops us, the liquidator then proceeds so that we are moving into closure. Our friends and colleagues, partners, Vedanta need to get to a point of accepting closure over this issue,” Musukwa said.
“They need to accept closure that this matter is a matter that must be closed whilst creating comfort for both government, the workers and Vedanta themselves. Where we have reached is a question, and you know, we are a law abiding jurisdiction and a government that’s why we have even reached this far and we don’t intend to break the law in any way. We will continue to abide by the provisions of the law, both local and international which affects us. So that’s our premise, our premise is to ensure that the liquidator quickly finds and engages a strategic partner to run and operate Konkola Copper Mines so that once again, the company can begin to be useful in our economy, in our environment and to our people.”
And Musukwa wondered why Vedanta was “dramatising the loss of KCM”.
“And our friends, colleagues, relatives and others in the name of Vedanta need to know that here in Zambia, and globally, including India where they come from, there is what is called social license to operate, they have injured, [caused] irreparable damage on the social license to operate in Zambia and particularly in Chililabombwe, Chingola and parts where they have their operations. They have broken the social license to operate and it’s actually in their interest to allow [the] sale process so that perhaps the little we can remember about them is that they were magnanimous when they failed to allow the process to go on, than dramatising at an international platform with hired mercenaries about their engagement in Zambia,” Musukwa said.
“Zambia is a victim and we get surprised how Vedanta wants to dramatise this. In Zambia here, we have multinational companies, why haven’t we instituted liquidation measures on over 18 large scale mining [companies] in Zambia from different jurisdictions, Canada, Australia, India itself, China and so many, why do they have an exceptional case?”
The minister said government could not sit and watch Vedanta break the law and has since decided to give the investor a red card.
“They have an exceptional case because Vedanta broke the law, they did not honour investment portfolio. As we sit, the KDMP (Konkola Deep Mining Project) project is behind by seven years, they failed to develop the mine, they failed to run and manage the contract and supply, their indebtedness over shadowed their operations, they were living from hand to mouth, putting the scale of Zambia’s economic trajectory in a space of uncertainty, including our workers, our employees,” said Musukwa.
“You are aware, they failed to pay suppliers and contractors and owed them billions of dollars. So government, because you need to know that my relationship with the mining industry or the government’s relationship with the mining industry is that of a client and a regulator. We can’t sit aloof and see things break down, our role is to ensure that we referee and in this case, we have refereed that Vedanta, it’s not a yellow card, it’s a red card because we have flashed several yellow cards by giving them default notice, we gave them two default notices, those were yellow cards and now we flashed a red card my sister. So our colleagues just need to be magnanimous in a loss and work with us in order to ensure that we find a strategic partner going forward, period!”