MINES and Minerals Development Minister Paul Kabuswe says if ever Vedanta was allowed to resume running Konkola Copper Mines, government would put in place strict conditions so that it conducted itself in a different manner than it used to in the past.
And Kabuswe says Mopani needs about $300 million capital injection.
Meanwhile, Kabuswe says government will soon announce the reopening of the Kasenseli Gold Mine in Mwinilunga district.
Speaking during Diamond TV’s Costa programme, Sunday, Kabuswe said if Vedanta was to continue running KCM, government would put in place serious conditions.
“Of course we have made it clear. As government, we do understand that the people in Chililabombwe and Chingola and generally on the Copperbelt feel betrayed, they feel depressed by how Vedanta behaved at the time. That one is clear and you have read some headlines have even run on where I have said this was the worst investment period for Chililabombwe and Chingola. So I think that the position is that if ever they were to come back, if ever, please underline that, if ever they were to come back, conditions will be put on the table, serious ones which should be against whatever they were doing in the past,” Kabuswe said.
“What they were doing to that asset is unacceptable, it’s not right, it’s not correct you don’t treat an asset and people like that. I am talking now as an MP, I have been in Chililabombwe, that’s where I was born. When you go to Chililabombwe and Chingola today, it’s a sorry sight. The place looks depressed, the place looks lost. We have to rebuild around the assets that the two districts have and generally the Copperbelt. So there have to be very serious conditionalities which if not meet we can’t play ball – that is what we are saying.”
Asked if the UPND administration wanted to bring back Vedanta to KCM or if it was looking for new investors, he said government only talked to Vedanta in court.
“I want to make this clear Costa. The only time we are talking to Vedanta is in court because there is arbitration. These are going on and so, we respect the court process, we respect the process that is going on. And this has actually delayed us because there are so many people, there are so many interested parties who would want to partner with us in running these mines. But you know, when a matter is in court Costa, you and I know it is very very difficult to really delve into the nitty gritties of how we would want to do the things because we may be be contemptuous,” Kabuswe said.
“But I will tell you, this government, whatever that it would want to do around KCM, Mopani, is for the benefit of Zambians. We are a listening government, you remember the President has said ‘tell us don’t shout at us’, we are listening, we know what people want, we know what went wrong. We are also of the view that whatever happened or transpired in the way that KCM was treated, was wrong.”
Asked if the people of Chingola and Chililabombwe wanted Vedanta to continue running KCM, he said the social license between that firm and the people was gone.
“The people of Chingola and Chililabombwe are not very happy with the way Vedanta was running the mine, the social license is at its lowest, it’s gone. So if Vedanta per adventure were to come back, they need to convince the people of Zambia that if we are to come back, we have baptised ourselves. We have changed our approach, this is how we want to do things, this is how the Zambian people will benefit, this is how the social license will be restored, this is how our CSR programme will be, this is how we will deal with suppliers and contractors, this is how the Zambian government will get its share in terms of treasury,” Kabuswe said.
“If the Zambian people are convinced on the Copperbelt like Chililabombwe and Chingola, then we are good to go because the Zambian people, for us as new dawn are critical, very very critical, we are not going to be making decisions in the abstract. We are going to be making decisions listening to what the Zambian people want.”
And Kabuswe said Mopani needed about $300 million capital injection.
“The mine hasn’t yet made profit but it is showing a positive trend. When we took over government, Mopani was in the negatives but now it has begun to show a positive trend. Of course we quickly need to inject more money into Mopani. Mopani needs about $300 million right now as capital injection so that quickly it can get back to where it is supposed to be and give us what we are supposed to get as Zambians and as government. The issue that has delayed the Mopani issue is actually the deal that was signed with Glencore in the previous regime, I would call it a bad deal,” he said.
When sked to address speculation that Mopani was likely to be placed on care and maintenance for about two months, Kabuswe said that was not a correct position.
“That is not right, that is not the correct position. Mopani is a low hanging fruit. We have a lot of interest around Mopani. I will not pre-empt anything that we are doing. Like I said Costa, most of the times the government operates like the one cooking nshima. You put water on the fire, you make porridge, you start cooking and before you know it, on the table here is the meal. We know that time is of essence but Mopani to us is a low hanging fruit. It’s not as complicated as KCM is and I think that in the shortest possible future, government will announce something around Mopani in terms of the future of Mopani, in terms of how we go forward with Mopani. I think this year won’t pass,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kabuswe said government would soon announce the reopening of the Kasenseli Gold Mine in Mwinilunga district.
“Previously, we didn’t perform well but we are restructuring very soon we will be announcing the opening of Kasenseli. We have agreed on a structure on how it is going to operate. We are going to look at issues of bringing in [control], not where you bring somebody to say I am part of this Kasenseli gold mine and I will be getting gold that is not the route that we are going to take. This government is going to have control in terms of gold so we have to find the right operators to operate within our country, to find the right operators to operate the gold sector and make sure that Zambia is championing the gold. So very soon, we will be announcing the reopening of Kasenseli and we want Kasenseli actually to act as a flagship,” said Kabuswe.