INFORMATION and Broadcasting Services Minister Chishimba Kambwili has warned that the Government will not condone any threats by mining companies to lay off workers on the basis of power outages.
Mr Kambwili said there was power being imported from Namibia for mining companies to buy at a premium rate.
“We are not going to condone any mining company that will cease operations and lay off workers on the basis of power shortage, there is an option of buying power at a premium rate which is being imported from Namibia for mining companies to operate at full capacity,” he said.
Mr Kambwili said at a press briefing in Luanshya yesterday that he was disappointed with the decision by CNMC Luanshya Copper Mines to put Baluba Mine under care and maintenance because of the power deficit.
The Chinese owned mining company yesterday announced that Baluba Mine and its attendant departments are to be placed on care and maintenance effective today.
This decision was arrived at after considering the escalating cost structure for Baluba Mine owing to the falling copper price, coupled with the energy deficit the country is currently experiencing.
Government has, however, directed the Chinese mining company to rescind its decision to lay off its workers at Baluba Mine.
Mr Kambwili said the decision by the mining company was done without consultation from both the ministry of Labour and that of Mines.
“There has never been discussion between Luanshya Copper Mines to lay off its workers as a result of a shortage of electricity. The mining company was given an option of buying the imported electricity from Namibia at a premium rate.
“As far as Government is concerned, the mine is not closed and all the workers should return for work tomorrow. Whatsoever has been done by the mining company in this case has been considered null and void,” he said.
He said Baluba Mine was the largest employer in Luanshya and the economy of the district would be negatively affected if it was closed.
Meanwhile, the Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) has called for Government’s quick intervention in the problem of job-cuts and redundancies by the mines.
MUZ President Nkole Chishimba said some mining houses were taking advantage of the current challenges such as the low copper prices, depreciation of the Kwacha and the power deficit to implement their long standing plans to down-size labour.
Mr Chishimba who was commenting on the reported decision to have Chinese-owned CNMC Luanshya Copper Mines’ Baluba underground operations closed and placed under care and maintenance, a move to render over 1, 500 miners, jobless, said Government should prevail over this.
Mr Chishimba who is also Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president said in Kitwe yesterday that the labour movement was saddened that the challenges of weakened Kwacha, lower copper prices and the power deficit was leading to closure and shrinking of some mining operations.
“This is a sad development but we feel this should have been foreseen and there must have been designs to mitigate the impact,” Mr Chishimba said.
He said the union was heartbroken to hear reports about the latest redundancies at Baluba where more than 1, 000 employees were earmarked for lay off.
Mr Chishimba also condemned the planned move by Konkola Copper Mines to close down Nchanga underground operations and ultimately have 133 miners declared redundant.
He said this decision by KCM should not be tolerated until all available options were exhausted as there are still mining reserves at Nchanga underground.