MINES and Minerals Development Minister Richard Musukwa says government is committed to ensuring that the life of Mopani Copper Mine on the Copperbelt is sustained and operations continue beyond three months.
And Mwamona Engineering proprietor Chishimba Kambwili says Mopani Copper Mines has brought all the problems it is currently facing on itself because it parent company, Glencore, has not paid attention to its operations in Zambia.
About four days ago, government restarted negotiations with Mopani Copper Mines Plc in a bid find a solution that would prevent the mining firm from being placed under care and maintenance within 90 days.
Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu led delegation of ministers among them Musukwa, his Labour and Energy counterparts Joyce Simukoko and Mathew Nkhuwa, respectively, among others for the discussions in Kitwe.
In his submission during a meeting with ministers and Mopani Copper Mine management, Wednesday, Kambwili who is a contractor at Mopani Copper Mines under his Mwamona Engineering Company said there was need to put in place a legislation to enable local contractors to benefit from the mine.
Kambwili said Glencore had not been paying attention to the cost of the mine production s and that Mopani had constantly continued to give major contracts to Peruvians while neglecting Zambian contractors, hence increasing their production cost.
“In my view, Mopani has put itself in this situation in terms of costs. What has been happening is that Glencore as the mother company seems not have the experts in running the mine. Issues of mining are very complex, in issues of mines you need to have your own employees who are technocrats in the respective area. But what Glencore has been doing is that if they hire a CEO from Peru, that CEO starts bringing all Peruvians to come and work at the Mine. When you look at the pricing of services by these foreign contractors, it four times of what the Zambians are charging. But when you look at their safety records and standards, Zambian contractors are even better. I can even challenge Mopani when it comes to production unit per man hours, my company, Mwamona Engineering stands to be the best,” said Kambwili.
“Now when it comes to giving contracts, they do not look at the performance of Zambian contractors, all they look at is that contractors have come as a group…Glencore has not paid attention to how the Mines operate. If they paid attention to operation al costs and how these operations costs are built, they could have run this Mine better. One of the gentlemen I have met at Mopani who thinks like us is Barry Hopkins, and he has told them several times Mopani could do better with local contractors but he has been shunted from operations and he has just been kept for advisory purposes.”
And speaking during the same meeting, Musukwa thanked Kambwili for articulating issues that government needed to discuss with Mopani and reiterated that it was not in government’s best interest to close Mopani.
“We would like to sincerely thank honourable Kambwili for coming through, in fact he didn’t come from Luanshya, when he called he was actually in Lusaka. He said I cannot miss out on the opportunity because I pride in the skills and the business of Mopani. So for us, we are very grateful because we sincerely believe that this one of the things that you speak with conviction in terms of ensuring the Zambians have an opportunity, the contracts are given to our local people and most importantly, ensuring that the life of the Mine at Mopani is not just for the short period of three months but that we sustain the operation beyond the three months. And I want to assure you of his Excellency, the President’s commitment to ensuring that the dream of Mopani going beyond three months is arrived at. That’s why he commissioned the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Labour to engage Mopani, engage Glencore and ensure that we have a win-win situation and a sustainable mining operation beyond the 90 days,” said Musukwa.
“It is clear that on our part as government we want to retaliate that we are averse to Mopani and Glencore putting the Mine on care and maintenance. Our resolve is o ensure that Mopani reduces its operating costs and ensures that the mine goes on for many years. The Mine plan that we have given Mopani is in excess of 25 years. So if you put it for three months, it doesn’t make sense. I took the minister of Finance and the Minister of Labour on their operations, they were shocked at the level of investment in the sychronarium, smelter and the shaft. The Minister of Finance told me, what sense of judgment is this when you have such massive investment and yet you are closing the mine? There is something sinister. So on the part of government, we will put our foot down with the support of stakeh9olders and indeed men and women like you (Kambwili) to ensure that we save the mine from total collapse and also ensure that we protect the workers of this country who have actually built Mopani to where it is today.”
Meanwhile, Dr Ng’andu also said government would extend the negotiations with Mopani Copper Mines if positive results were not yielded from the just ended negotiations.
“The delegated ministers will ensure that all matters that have been highlighted by all stakeholders that have been engaged are brought dealt with. Government is willing to extend the negotiations if the intended results are not yielded to avoid the same situation of the mine threatening to place its plants under care and maintenance after four months and possibly close the mines,” said Dr Ng’andu.