Chambishi Metals Plc has been placed under care and maintenance, sending 229 workers onto the streets.

Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) president Joseph Chewe announced that about 229 workers at Chambishi Metals would be retrenched by the end of this month following a decision by management to put the company under care and maintenance.

Speaking during a media briefing in Kitwe, Monday, Chewe told journalists that the Union was disappointed that despite its efforts, the mine pressed ahead to shut down its operations as its only option.

He explained that Chambishi Metals management’s decision for the company to be placed under care and maintenance was a result of its failure to secure feed stock.

“Comrades, we thank you that your work is priceless because the communities and Zambia requires information that can bring job creation and reduce poverty. Chambishi Metals is the only company that produces cobalt and a food ship for Zambia, when they have a challenge, know that cobalt will be thrown away. MUZ and Chambishi have been having meetings with a view to compel the company not to close. Unfortunately, we had a long meeting where they informed the Union that the company will be placed on care and maintenance again due to failure to find feed stock to sustain the plant,” Chewe said.

He regretted the company’s untimely closure as the local community depended on the ailing mining firm for its livelihood.

“The workers to be retrenched is 229 and 29 will be retained as care and maintenance. This is a very unfortunate situation and regrettable for the community of Chambishi. It is a loss to the country for a company to be placed on care and maintenance,” Chewe lamented.

He, however, added that the Union had negotiated decent packages for the retrenched workers.

“The Union has negotiated for the workers to be paid their dues as it is under care and maintenance, the package ranges: K45,000 and K6,000 repatriation. However, this will have a negative impact on the community of Chambishi,” he said.

Chewe urged government to consider revoking the mining license and find a capable and alternative investor to run the company profitably.

He argued that the current owners of Chambishi Metals Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) had failed to run the company as it was not the first time it had been put it under care and maintenance.

“In our view, ERG has failed to run the plant! This plant has been closed several times. We call upon government and the Minister of Mines (Richard Musukwa) that this company, nabafeywa, babweshe licence kubuteko! (They have failed, let them hand over the licence to government) and give it to others so that these jobs, we continue losing and inflicting poverty to Chambishi community comes to an end,” he said.

“Since the take over of ERG Group, the plant has been be on and off. The next investor should be scrutinized to ensure that the welfare of the employees and the country is protected.”

He insisted that it was unacceptable for management to say the plant would only be re-opened after three years.

“The management said that the plant may not reopen for three years is worrisome because we can’t keep the plant for that period of time, that is why we say handover the licence to government,” complained Chewe.

Chambishi Metals Plc was involved in the mining, refining and tolling of cobalt and copper in Chililabombwe District of the Copperbelt Province where ENRC Capital owns a 90 per cent stake, leaving the remaining 10 per cent shareholding with ZCCM-IH.