By Potipher Tembo
THE Zambian government has reiterated that no mine will easily close down and result in job losses for miners.
Faced with various challenges, many mines in the country have been threatening to cut down on the workforce for them to continue operating profitably.
Some of the mining companies have even been contemplating closing down claiming that they were operating at a loss.
But acting President Guy Scott on January 11 this year assured miners at Lumwana Mine in Solwezi that no jobs would be lost following threats by the mining company to suspend operations due to the newly introduced mineral royalty tax and continued fall in the price of copper.
Dr Scott told the miners that government was aware of their concerns and he had engaged the mining company in talks.
“When the elections are done, we will deal with this matter fully because we don’t want people to lose jobs,” said Dr Scott.
He urged the workers to remain disciplined and strong and that the mine was the property of the people of Zambia would remain so.
Barrick Lumwana Gold Director of Operations for Africa and the Middle East, Brian Grebenc agreed that the company was in talks with government to find a solution.
Mr Grebenc said the operations at the mining firm would be suspended if the issues they had raised were not addressed.
He was hopeful, however, that a decision that would benefit everyone would be made.
“We are making steady progress and we are confident that a lasting solution would be found,” he said adding that the mining company was not trying to blackmail the government and that the company which has employed more than 4,000 workers did not want to see people lose jobs.
In October last year, the Mine workers Union of Zambia (MUZ) commended government for objecting to plans by Glencore -owned Sable Zinc Mine in Kabwe to retrench 170 employees following the placement of the company on care and maintenance.
This was in view of the withholding of K64 million VAT refund by Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).
Muz General Secretary, Joseph Chewe said the quick reaction by government to reject job cuts at Sable Zinc Mine was encouraging.
Mr Chewe said that government had an obligation to guarantee employment to the citizens.
He said the union was pleased to see government fulfilling its obligation of guaranteeing employment to the citizens, particularly miners.
In October 2013, Chamber of Mines of Zambia President Emmanuel Mutati said mining companies in Zambia had no intention of cutting down 74,000 jobs created then.
Mr Mutati said the mining industry accounted for about 74,000 jobs and the industry would not retrench any employees.
He assured that more jobs would instead be created once new projects were realised. The new projects expected to have come on stream were the US 2 billion Sentinel Mine project and the 640 million dollar new smelter at Kansanshi Mine, both undertaken by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) Ltd.
Mr Mutati said once the projects were realised, the sector’s projection of copper production was likely to be close to 1.5 million tonnes per annum by 2016.
Zambia he said was ranked the 7th largest producer of mined recovered copper in the world and was likely to be the fourth largest producer by 2016. Copper accounted for about 80 per cent of Zambia’s merchandise in 2012.
Mr Mutati hinted that mining companies had invested 8 billion dollars in capital expenditure from 2000 to 2012 with the sector accounting for about 74,000 employees that year.