MINES Minister Richard Musukwa says government will ensure that workers at Mopani Copper Mine are protected as discussions for its eventual takeover are expected to be concluded in the shortest possible time.
And Musukwa says the purpose of ZCCM-IH increasing its shareholding in Mopani is to have controlling stake, but it will later look for a business partner to operate the mine.
Musukwa was responding to various issues raised by the Mineworkers’ Union, who stressed the need for workers to go through a fresh employment process so that they could access benefits for the work done for Glencore.
The Union equally expressed concern over the owning of shares by workers in Mopani as Glencore proceeded to sell off its shares to ZCCM-IH, among other would-be investors.
“We do not want the new company or the new entity to move into the platform with liabilities. We would like that all those issues will be addressed and it applies to the issues of KCM. We want to ensure that all the issues surrounding workers, workers’ conditions of service, especially those who have worked in the past, are addressed so that as people go to another platform, they go on a clean slate. But tell bashi mine, not ukwamba ukukongola ngabaya pa zero mileage (tell the miners not to start getting credit because they have reached zero mileage); getting credits on benefits that they have not yet seen. They must use this money that they have worked for many years to invest in some sustainable future processes that should be able to help them when they retire,” Musukwa said.
“What we are just careful, as government and the negotiating team is that, we don’t want us to get into the story of KCM, which was sold for US $25 million and the following day, we were told that money was recovered. We don’t want to be a laughing stock of the negotiating process that’s why we want to ensure that key professionals undertake the process. That’s why ZCCM-IH has appointed a transaction advisor, who is actually also trying to run through all things once they are done. So, we would like to assure the workers at Mopani that as we negotiate out of this difficult challenge, we are very confident that we will come out of this process in the shortest possible time, and that that all the issues that you have raised are being tackled so that we create a full package for everyone.”
He added that the negotiation team had made progress with conclusions expected at the earliest convenience.
“I also want to assure you that the technical team negotiating this process has made very good progress, in fact, that is how now we have ensured that the unions are part of the negotiations so that we are able to send the information across to the public and the people out there so that there is no gap in terms of information. I can assure that we are looking at concluding these discussions at the earliest convenience and must commend Glencore that they have been extremely very forthright coming in terms of ensuring that we conclude these processes,” Musukwa said.
And he explained that the purpose of ZCCM-IH increasing its shareholding in Mopani was to have controlling stake, but it would later look for a business partner to operate the mine.
“Now, I know that there has been issues from several entities, including politicians, as regards the competence of ZCCM-IH to run and operate Mopani. We have firmly indicated that ZCCM-IH’s expression of interest to grow the shareholding is meant to have controlling shares. In this instance, Glencore has said they do not want to continue operating or investing in Mopani, what are we supposed to do? To force Glencore to continue? Government is an option of the last resort in this case and that’s why we have allowed ZCCM-IH to proceed on this trajectory as a platform merely as a platform for offloading these shares and then you know very well that our directive to ZCCM-IH is to ensure they operate as a business, then they are going to look for a business partner to operate the mine,” Musukwa explained.
“ZCCM-IH is not mobilising resources from government, they will mobilise resources from international platforms in terms of partners. In brief, just to help the ‘doubting Nichodemus,’ ZCCM-IH will find partners; they can find any partner and structure a model in terms of shareholding. If you [workers] are coming on board to be shareholders, that will be good because we want this to run at an economic platform, and for a long time, the people of Zambia have not had an opportunity to be real shareholders in the mining industry, which commands 80 per cent of our economic performance. What we are looking forward to is also indigenous Zambians should come and be part of the shareholding.”
Meanwhile, the minister said the government would ensure a credible investor takes over KCM’s operations from Vedanta to guarantee continued operations at the mine.
“I know that the liquidation process for KCM has taken extremely long, but there is no case that lasts forever. We were frustrated with several court processes. As a law abiding government, we have been religiously following these processes and we know that these issues are now nearing conclusion and we think that government will move in to ensure that a credible investor comes on-board and ensures that we guarantee the operations of KCM. What KCM requires is fresh injection of capital in order to ensure that ramping up takes effect and the project, especially KDMP projects, becomes a reality and guarantees the future,” Musukwa said.
“We feel that the resource that lies at KCM is the future of Zambia, the resource that lies at Mopani is the future of Zambia and we feel that put together, the mining industry still remains buoyant and will create huge employment and contribute to our economic trajectory.”
The Chililabombwe PF member of parliament further disclosed that four companies had expressed interest in taking over Chambishi Metals.
“We have told our colleagues at Chambishi that after the 30 days expired, we have actually received expressions of interest from various entities that want to take over the operation and invest. So, we have started the process because we cannot continue with business as usual. The same operation we have had presentations from four different companies that have given us a serious projection of how they can restart the operations so we have asked our colleagues that this is the process that we are embarking to ensure that we guarantee job security and also the economic trajectory in our areas, especially Chambeshi, Kitwe,” said Musukwa.
Glencore Plc is facilitating the offloading of 90 per cent shareholding in Mopani to ZCCM-IH.
The Swiss-based commodity and mining company had earlier this year announced its intention to place Mopani on care and maintenance, signalling its desire to exit the Zambian mining sector amid its huge operational costs.