Chambishi Copper Smelter has shut down its Anode and Reduction furnaces due to electricity shortages.
In an interview after mines minister Christopher Yaluma toured the plant, CCS deputy manager in charge of Safety Health and Environment Robinson Mubita said the power the processing plant was receiving was not sufficient and expensive.
He said the situation had affected production and the company could not even open the newly constructed cobalt plant due to power shortages.
“We have shut down two plants, the Anode Furnace and the Reduction Furnace. They are not working because the power we get from Zesco is not enough but expensive. The Cobalt Plant that has been completed cannot also start because of power. The reduction furnace needs a lot power and the anode furnace is automatic. They cannot operate with intermittent power supply. These are issues we need to tackle with the help of government to ensure that we keep these plants running because they are critical to our operations,” Mubita said.
Mubita said the company, however, had not retrenched or laid off anybody as the workers in anode and reduction furnaces had been transferred to other departments while others were still in the two plants for care and maintenance purposes.
And CCS deputy chief executive officer Zhang Jiankun said US$ 0.07 dollars per kilowatt was too high a tariff, coupled with shortages.
“It’s quite high because we are literally spending seven cents per kilowatt. We are waiting for more power transfers and we have started engaging authorities to see how best we can get back to full operations in these two critical departments of this smelter,” Zhang said.
He, however, said the investments in CCS had risen to US $600 million following an additional construction of a cobalt plant.
“With this and if we have sufficient and affordable power, we will be able to process metals from our slug dump. We are hoping this will also create employment and so far we have 80 new workers, the locals. For a start, we will be processing 475 tonnes of cobalt,” said Zhang.
And Yaluma said he expected CCS to provide all necessary stability measures to ensure that the smelting operations did not affect power quality.
“This nature of operations also contributes to unstable power supply. Some regulatory equipment is needed to stabilize power supply. You are going to have sufficient supply soon, we don’t want operations to be affected. We have arranged a meeting with all government ministries involved and I am inviting you to that meeting so that we can find lasting solutions. I am happy that you have maintained the labour force and that’s how it should be. Solutions will be found to these problems,” said Yaluma.