Mines Minister Richard Musukwa says government is hoping to announce a strategic partner to take over Konkola Copper Mine (KCM) operations by June this year.

And Musukwa has charged that Mopani Copper Mine is trying to arm-twist the government as there was no government representative invited to the extraordinary meeting at which the decision to put the mine on care and maintenance was arrived at.

Meanwhile, Mine Workers Union of Zambia president Joseph Chewe has disclosed that the union is planning to stage a protest today against Mopani’s decision to put the mine on care and maintenance.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Musukwa noted that government expects to arrive at a decision on who will work with ZCCM-IH to run KCM by June this year.

“There has not been too much silence, we are moving on on KCM and the liquidator has so far done extremely well and we think that we need to ensure that we very quickly conclude on a strategic partner to work with ZCCM-IH and ensure that we begin to invest in development and support of our work force who have toiled for a long time in support of the operation. We are narrowing down on two three investors, not yet concluded but we should be going over… making an announcements at an opportune time. We are running out of time even ourselves so we are hoping that by June we should have something positive. We are looking at all the options to create viability and sustainability for the entire operation without taking risks for any operation so we are looking at an overall picture,” he said.

And the minister charged that Mopani was trying to sneak in employees and lay off workers.

“How can you trust…[they are trying to sneak in employees, to lay off workers] definitely, that’s what they are trying to do and this is not a question of trust, the information is here for us to see clearly. First of all the first reasons that they told us are different from the second reasons; and clearly, even the response that we are sitting with today or the other day from Mopani is suggestive of a well-structured and a well thought out scheme for a long time, not an event to commensurate a force majeure,” said Musukwa.

“That is the mistrust which is existing because I got a call from the CEO of ZCCM-IH who actually told me that our representative on the board did not attend the extraordinary meeting because he was not informed, he was not served with notice. Are you sure such a huge decision can go without serving a government representative, through ZCCM-IH, notice about such a huge impending undertaking if you have no suspicious undertakings? Clearly, that is what gives us an impetus to think that Mopani doesn’t mean well, Mopani wants to promote illegality and I want to repeat that the decision that Mopani has undertaken is illegal and they should halt the process and should reverse all their undertakings they have done and follow the law. What is good is that we are a government of laws, we are slowly but cautiously ensuring that the provisions of the law are followed.”

Meanwhile, Chewe said his members were set to hold a protest today in light of the move by Mopani to put the Mufulira and Kitwe mine on care and maintenance.