MOPANI Copper Mines Plc has agreed to maintain operations beyond this Friday, July 31, 2020, the date it was originally set to place its operations on care and maintenance, says Ministry of Mines Permanent Secretary Barnaby Mulenga.

In an interview, Mulenga said, however, that talks would continue on the way forward since Mopani had appealed this decision.

“We agreed, as you heard, even from the statement they issued to that effect. So, there’ve been discussions with them, which have concluded that they are not proceeding on care and maintenance, so operations will proceed beyond the 31st of July, but what will, however, happen is that they might continue because they’ve appealed that position and we are engaged in more talks to see how we can solve this in the light of that appeal,” said Mulenga.

Last week, Mopani revealed in a statement that it was going to appeal government’s decision to reject their proposal to place the mine’s operations on care and maintenance, citing operational challenges.

“At the beginning of May, 2020, Mopani Copper Mines Plc notified the government of its intention to place the mining operations on care and maintenance after 90 days. Mopani has been notified by the Mines Development Department that it has rejected its proposal to suspend the operations pursuant to Section 37 (2) of the Mines and Minerals Development Act (2015) (MMDA) and place them on Care and Maintenance (C&M). Mopani remains of the belief that the only way to protect the company’s value and preserve the option to deliver its growth projects when conditions further improve is to transition the operations to C&M. Mopani is currently assessing its options and will initiate an appeal pursuant to the MMDA against the Director of Mines’ decision within the permitted time frame. Further, it will explore all options available to it to preserve the long-term value of the Mopani business. Mopani will continue mining operations, pending the outcome of the appeal processes, pursuant to the Director of Mines’ decision and the MMDA. Mopani continues to engage with the relevant government ministries on identifying potential solutions to address Mopani’s current challenges,” read the statement.

In early April, Mopani announced it was placing the mine on care and maintenance for a three-month period owing to “very challenging” operating, regulatory and macroeconomic environments, which had placed significant pressure on the business.

In addition, the miner cited the impact of a-then rapid decline in copper prices and the critical disruptions to international mobility, transportation and supply chains arising from COVID-19, such that a number of projects that had been earmarked for commissioning, the company said, had to be placed on hold until key personnel were able to travel to site.

Government, however, reacted swiftly to thwart those plans and accused Mopani of acting outside the law.

Following some heavy-handed action, including the prevention of the mines’ chief executive officer, Nathan Bullock, from leaving the country on April 15, Mopani said it would stay its decision and remain open, subject to agreeing certain undisclosed conditions with government proposals, indicating the decision would be revisited after three months.