The announced takeover of Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) by government has ignited panic and anxiety in the company’s workforce, as both managers and unionised workers remain in the dark regarding their fate.
Some KCM managers who spoke on condition of anonymity told News Diggers! that although it could not be disputed that the mining firm had piling operational and administrative challenges, the takeover immediately brought on board a new set of uncertainties, which no one so far has cared to explain.
“The move has taken us by surprise and has brought anxiety and uncertainty. While the situation under Vedanta has, indeed, been difficult over the past couple of years, with delayed salaries, salary cuts, no salary increments, lack of adequate operational machinery and equipment required in mining operations, etc. the takeover brings its own set of issues. Will creditors be paid their dues? If so, who will pay them? Will KCM employees receive their May salaries, which are due on 25th May (next week), if so, who will pay them? Does this mean everyone of us is now jobless? Are we now civil servants on a civil service salary scale?” the sources wondered.
“There is panic and anxiety around the company, especially that this news broke over the weekend, people are wondering what the real plans of government are behind this move. Who will run the company? Will KCM be sold to the Chinese? Because the conditions of service under the Chinese are a major concern for most people. Will the new owner retrench us and bring in people of their nationality instead? During this period, will the Zambian government manage to pay the KCM wage bill, which is around US $2 million per month? What happens to the employees’ money sitting at Regna Saturnia Pension Fund? Will it be paid out as we await direction on new ownership? And the huge debts KCM has; how will Vedanta be made accountable for it?”
The sources expressed concern that if government’s move was done for political mileage without a clear rescue plan, the takeover would create a worse crisis.
“Does govt really have a good plan behind all this or it’s just for perceived political mileage? We know what they say in the political circles that if you have the miners’ support, then you have the Copperbelt vote. The worry is that if this is all about raising the excitement of voters without a plan, it will backfire badly! Without a plan, we are afraid that government will end up desperate to sell to a cunning investor who will take advantage of this crisis just like Vedanta did to buy this huge mine at US $25 million under Levy Mwanawasa.
Konkola Copper Mines Plc is comprised of three strategic business units namely; Nchanga, which has Nchanga Underground and Nchanga open pits in Chingola as well as Nampundwe Mine in Lusaka province. KCM also operates a smelting and refining unit comprising the Nchanga Smelter in Chingola and Nkana refinery in Kitwe. It also runs the Konkola business unit in Chililabombwe, which operates No.3 and No.4 Shafts.