Mines Minister Richard Musukwa has told Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) Plc workers that some Chinese companies and investors from other countries are currently conducting due diligence on the mine because they are interested in buying it.
Musukwa, however, says government cannot sell off the mine without informing them.
Meanwhile, Musukwa has described Vedanta Resources’ media statements detailing their achievements in running KCM and the benefits accrued to the surrounding local community as propaganda.
Addressing scores of KCM workers in Chingola, Thursday, Musukwa insisted that KCM had still not been sold to China Non-Ferrous Metals Company (CNMC), contrary to reports on the ground suggesting otherwise.
“There was a rumor to say government has already sold the mine to CNMC. We have not sold the mine to CNMC! We haven’t even prepared the bid; we haven’t prepared any critical legal document. Where we are is that companies are doing due diligence on the mine. Once they finish that, they will go to another process and all those processes will be communicated to you as workers. So, relax! And we have told the liquidator that tupeleni ulupiya ulwakushita ama equipment (give us money to buy the mine equipment). And you will see how we will change this mine. All you are hearing is speculation and don’t live on social media lies!” Musukwa exclaimed.
“Surely, can we sell the mine without informing you about it because when selling the mine, there are certain conditions that first set [and] that is why the union president attends these meetings. We will not be forced, as government, to make hasty decisions over this mine. Do you know why some investors exploit their workers? It is because we have been weaker ourselves to implement the law which is in place. Never again should we subject our people to such kind of conditions. And you people here, don’t allow people who don’t work for the mine be speaking for you. Let no one cheat you to say: ‘we will demonstrate’ [because] it is you, yourselves, who are supposed to demonstrate. If there is something you don’t like, cast them through your leadership. Let’s not allow political expedience.”
He explained how some companies were conducting due diligence.
“We want to ensure that the workers are a priority. So, what we are looking for is an investor who has capacity and resources to pump in the operations so that we have a life tomorrow. Otherwise, if we are just talking about eating bread today and tomorrow we don’t have anything [then] what will we have done? Our job is to ensure that we have a life today and tomorrow. That is the preoccupation of government. And I want to call on all stakeholders that this is a non-political issue. It is about the lives of people of Chililabombwe and Chingola, the workers of KCM and the viability of Zambians. I want to call on all stakeholders [and] all interested groups to come on board [so that] we save KCM and move to another level,” Musukwa said.
“What government is doing now is that there are several companies that are expressing interest to take over KCM. What we have done is that we have constituted a technical team of vested people in various fields, mining geology, metrology, accountants, lawyers, unions and all people of all walks of life. If there are other stakeholders that we may have left out, they can come and say ‘we have not been considered.’ These are the people who are scrutinizing those who are expressing interest to take over [KCM]. There are so many who have expressed interest to take over KCM [and] so far we have about nine companies. These nine companies are from Russia, Canada, Turkey, Peru, China. At the end of this process, as a government, we will also set our own rules. Whoever is coming to invest here should not come with his own workers because workers are already here. We also want a company that has got equipment. And you, the people, need to demonstrate that you are able to transform this operation going forward. So, we will need expatriates here and there. We can’t say we will run this operation alone without the support of others. But what we are saying is that 80 or 90 per cent of the people on the operation should be Zambians.”
He stressed the importance of effective communication on the ongoing liquidation process.
“And I want to urge the [union] president going forward that let’s not leave a gap. We need to be updating the workers so that they know what is going on. Communication must start in the branches so that members know what is happening. We want you to be motivated to produce. We don’t want a situation where whenever you just see a Chinese national here then you start saying: ‘they have sold the mine!’ We have three different groups of Chinese that have expressed interest. It is not just one. So, government, through my PS (Permanent Secretary), has given an opportunity for the companies that have expressed interest an opportunity to come to the mine. Can you buy something before seeing it? So, this is what the companies are doing. After hearing that we have removed Vedanta, these companies have expressed interest and now they are coming to the mine to look at the assets [and] to conduct due diligence. They have to see how many workers are there. How much do they get paid?” he asked.
And Musukwa dismissed Vedanta Resources’ achievements in running KCM and the benefits accrued to the surrounding local community as propaganda.
“And you know, I was actually checking [because] I am not an ‘Internet’ MP. I am on the ground, but our team always tell me what goes on these platforms. Vedanta has dedicated a media team of propaganda to talk on how they have invested here, how they have been looking after you very well; [and] how they have done miracles here. Therefore, to see the investment of the cadre, you don’t have to be on the social media in London, in South Africa, in America. Come to Konkola and see if this is the billions of dollars they are talking about! If you see the infrastructure, come and see if these are the billions of dollars they are talking about,” said Musukwa.