GOVERNMENT has written to Mopani Copper Mines chief executive officer Nathan Bullock informing him of its intentions to revoke mining license for its two units in Kitwe and Mufulira.
According to impeccable sources at the Ministry of Mines, this is in retaliation to the mining giant’s decision to defy government’s directive and placing its Nkana and Mufulira mines on care and maintenance.
“The minister does not take kindly to the position which Mopani has taken on this issue and he insists that they are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to restructure operations. When you look at the haste with which these decisions have been made, it is only pointing towards one direction and so as I speak to you, the Mining Licensing Committee secretary Mr [Micheal] Chibonga has already written to the CEO notifying him of intentions to revoke the large scale mining licenses because they breached the Mines and Minerals Development Act of 2015,” the source said.
According to the Zambia Mining Cadastre Portal Mopani Copper Mines licence number 7625-HQ-LML for it’s Nkana business unit was issued on March 3, 2005 and was expected to expire on March 30, 2025, while the Mopani Copper Mine licence number 7073-HQ-LML operating in Mufulira was issued on March 31, 2000 with a 25 year lifespan.
The source told News Diggers that the letter delivered to Mopani stated that the mining company breached Section 37(3)(c) of the Mines and Minerals Development Act of 2015 by defying the directive of government.
Efforts to get a comment from Mopani management proved futile by press time.
Last week, Mopani proceeded to put operations at the Mufulira and Kitwe plants on care and maintenance despite threats of dire consequences from government.
Mopani maintained that the mines in Kitwe and Mufulira would be put on care and maintenance on April 8 saying the move was necessary to protect the company’s value until market conditions improve.
But Minister of Mines Richard Musukwa asked unions and workers to rise up and fight for the mine, saying “this is not time to be docile”.
Musukwa said government was currently studying the situation and would inform the nation on whether or not they will take over the mine.
“Government is the people, the people is government, government has rejected Mopani’s decision and our workers, residents of Kitwe and Mufulira must ensure that they are not at business as usual. Our workers, together with the union must not accept mediocrity from Mopani. And they have government support to stand on their right, on their mine, our God given resource, that’s our position. Abantu besu bafwile ba ima not baleba fye docile (Our people must rise up and not remain docile), nabekale fye. Ba beba ati baisala umugodi ba yamba uku cita, namwikala fye, (they are being told that the mine will be closed and they are just sitting idle) this is not time to sit, it is time to stand up and tell the investor ‘enough is enough’, this is our country, we cannot be waiting on your goodwill, no!” Musukwa said.
Asked whether government planned to take over the mine if the Mopani continued on its path, Musukwa said a comprehensive statement would be issued soon.
He insisted that Mopani was trying to take advantage of COVID-19 to restructure.
“Government is studying the entire structure of what is at play and we will be issuing a comprehensive statement to that effect. We are actually aware that they will proceed with their arrogance but no one can be above government, this is our country and we reserve the right. We are a law abiding jurisdiction as a country and so my team is currently studying the situation and we will ensure that the law applies. You can clearly see that these are old choreographed decisions that Mopani had already decided and we are aware that this is a Glencore directive to Mopani, the local management and team know very clearly that the decision they are taking is not in the best interest of the company and its not in the best interest of our people,” Musukwa told News Diggers in an interview.