GOVERNMENT will be forced to take over the running of Lumwana Copper Mine to save the threatened 4,000 jobs if the owners, Barrick Gold, places it on care and maintenance, President Edgar Lungu has warned.
He said Government would take over the running of Lumwana Mine through ZCCM-IH before finding a strategic partner.
“Government will not allow a single mining job to be lost. The Ministry of Mines should ensure that operations at Lumwana Mine are not idled for care and maintenance.
“If the investors proceed to idle the mine, one of the measures to be explored will include the identification of a suitable Strategic Technical Partner to team up with ZCCM-IH, the Government’s investment arm in the mining sector to assume the operations,” President Lungu said through his special assistant for press and public relations Amos Chanda.
Mr Lungu assured Lumwana workers that their jobs were secured and there was no cause for panic and alarm.
“We have completed a series of consultations with individual mine owners and collectively with the Zambia Chamber of Mines. All the meetings with industry representatives took place at State House over the past two weeks,” he said.
President Lungu regretted that Barrick Gold had gone ahead to announce that the 135,000 tonnes per year Lumwana Copper Mine producer would be placed under care and maintenance by end of this month, adding that no other production cuts have been announced.
“I have noted that the industry outlook is that Zambia together with the Democratic Republic of Congo will remain among the few countries with the potential to increase copper production as well as their market share of global production. However, following the sharp decline in copper prices at the beginning of 2015, focus is being placed on assessing its likely impact on this optimism on Zambia’s role in the copper market and whether this needs to be reassessed,” he said. President Lungu explained that since 2000, copper production in Zambia had been increasing, reaching a peak of 760,000 tonnes in 2013 before recording a drop to 708,000 tonnes in 2014. “It should be noted that copper production performed poorly in 2014 even before the new mining tax regime was introduced. With forecast prices of copper of US$6,350 per tonne in 2015 and US$7,250 per tonne in 2016, Government expects the majority of the mining companies to continue to operate without major disruptions. Zambia’s copper production is likely to close at 900,000 tonnes for 2015, the highest ever levels since 1975,” he said.
President Lungu said under the current environment, Government’s priority remained one of engaging the mining industry with a view of mutually developing a fiscal and regulatory regime that provided a “win-win” solution for all.
Meanwhile, the Zambia Chambers of Mines president Julius Sikamo has said the impending pull-out of Lumwana would cost the country dearly if not averted as over 4000 jobs would be lost.
Mr. Sikamo said Government should put in place measures to address the impending loss of jobs.
“This is extremely critical for Zambia. The loss of over 4000 direct jobs and more indirect jobs will be costly for the country and it is only fair for Government to step in quickly and address the matter now or never.
“What we are talking about is that even you people in Lusaka you will feel the impact; it will affect you,” he said.