Mining houses have called on President Edgar Lungu to intervene in the “capricious” Zesco load shedding exercise that has put copper production and thousands of jobs in peril.
“Unless the President intervenes the situation will get worse because discussions between Zesco, the Mines and Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) are not yielding the necessary results,” an official told the Daily Nation.
The Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development Christopher Yaluma, he said, appeared completely “adrift and at sea” as he did not seem to be abreast of the critical situation prevailing as he continued to make “contradictory” statements not founded on fact.
Meanwhile, the Zambia Chamber of Mines has embarked on a continuous power deficit Indaba aimed at mitigating the power crisis on the mines with mining firms, Zesco and the CEC in order to safe-guard job losses.
Zambia Chamber of Mines president Jackson Sikamo told the Daily Nation that the chamber did not want miners to lose jobs and that there was need for all affected parties to dialogue and find a long-lasting situation to the power crisis that had engulfed the country.
Mr. Sikamo said the meetings between the mines, CEC and Zesco were aimed at finding a way to get around the situation so that problems that are facing the mining firms and their employees were addressed because they bordered on business of the companies which were making losses and the job security of the Zambians working in the mines.
“As Chamber of Mines, we don’t want to have a situation where our members (miners) lose their jobs as a result of this load shedding and this is why we are calling for these meetings to try and see if we can find a common standing where companies are able to maximise their operations during the periods that they have power and for the service providers to find other means of rectifying the problem.
“This is why we met on Saturday to try and come to a common understanding and these meetings will continue. We are scheduled to have another meeting tomorrow (today) with the mines and service providers (Zesco and CEC) to see if we can address the problem,” Mr. Sikamo said.
He explained that the situation on the Copperbelt needed a collective approach because it bordered on the lives of the people who were making a living out of the mines.
Mr Sikamo said it was good that mining companies had found Zambia as a worth while business destination and were providing jobs to the locals, but that there was also need to look at their plight even as they were providing jobs to the locals.
“The situation on the Copperbelt right now is very difficult because most companies have reduced their operation output as a result of this power problem. These firms came to Zambia for business and have also provided employment for our people but it is important that stakeholders such as government, mines, and the two service providers CEC and Zesco find realistic solutions.
“Yes, CEC is providing power to the Copperbelt to help Zesco cushion the deficit, but it is not enough and that is why we need to come together by having continuous dialogue with all these parties in order to address this situation,” he said. Uncertainty over the future of most miners in Zambia has continued as load shedding has intensified.to the Copperbelt has become the order of the day. Zesco has continued to disconnect power to the mines owing to the low water levels in Kariba dam which has hampered the generation capacity of the power utility company.
First Quantum Minerals (FQM) is said to have put Kalumbila Minerals Limited (KML) on care and maintenance owing to the continued outages which have hampered its production capacities.
Not long ago, Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma said government would not allow any reduction in power supply to the mines without dialogue with concerned parties but sources on the Copperbelt have told the Daily Nation that other than long periods of load shedding that the mines were subjected to, the region was now receiving reduced power during the weekends.
The sources say if the current situation continued, more miners would be affected as the companies would be forced to down-size due to reduced production which had led to loss of revenue for the companies.
Meanwhile, over one thousand construction workers at Kalumbila minerals limited are likely to lose their jobs due to the reduction in electricity supply to the sentinel copper mine.
Last week Kalumbila Minerals Limited Public Relations Coordinator Mirriam Harmon said the cutting of Power supply to the mining firm from the original supply of 130 megawatts to only 42 megawatts had negatively affected the operations at the mine.
Ms Harmon observed that operations at the plant needed enough electricity to operate fully but that the current supply is not sufficient for copper production.
She noted that in order to protect the business, the Mine will start aggressive cost cutting measures such halting of the recruitment of 350 new jobs in which both local and expatriates were likely to lose their jobs.
She said that the mining firm has continued basic operations but it had halted copper production because it was not viable due to the power supply restriction.
This is contrary to what Mine Minister Christopher Yaluma had earlier said when he assured the nation that the mines will not be affected by the current load shedding because the mines were critical to the country’s economy.