FIRST Quantum Minerals (FQM) will lay off 500 workers at its Sentinel Mine at Kalumbila in Solwezi which is under construction.
The decision by the company to lay off the workers follows the delay by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) to lift a protection order for the company to construct the Chisola dam.
According to FQM spokesperson John Gladston, the company had been forced to lay off the workers because it could not sustain the current high workforce levels whilst it waited for ZEMA to lift a protection order that had prevented further construction on the Chisola Dam.
But Labour Deputy Minister Ronald Chitotela said Government would not allow the continued laying off of workers whenever a company was facing challenges.
Mr Chitotela appealed to the affected workers to remain calm as a team of experts would meet with FQM management to discuss the matter and find a way to avert the job losses.
In a separate interview, he said Government would not allow a situation, where mine owners opted to lay off workers, whenever they faced a problem.
“We are a caring Government and this is what the workers need to understand. We will not let this be the end decision. We are sending a team of experts to FQM to discuss the matter and find a solution. Companies should not look at workers as a cost but as a means of production,” he said.
“The company has been left with no option as employees have not been able to work on the dam whilst the ZEMA protection order is in force,” Mr Gladston said.
He said the company would soon be serving termination notices to the affected workers in the coming days.
He said the company was optimistic that the dialogue it had been having with Government would bring about a speedy resolution to safeguard the jobs of the people.
Recently Government moved in to intervene in a similar job slashing by Konkola Copper Mines which targeted to lay off 2000 employees.
In announcing the decision to lay off the 2,000 workers, KCM cited a slump in copper prices and high cost of production caused by rising fuel prices as the major reasons to reduce its workforce.
However the decision had since been halted.