Mopani Copper Mines will not be allowed to blackmail President Edgar Lungu with threats of closure of the mines because Government was ready to take over operations of its mines, Patriotic Front Member of the Central Committee Father Frank Bwalya says.
Fr. Bwalya said it was important that genuine Zambians should support President Lungu’s challenge to the cash-strapped copper mining giant Glencore to hand over Mopani Copper Mines if it had failed to run the company.
Mopani unit plans to cut about 4,000 jobs, but President Lungu said Government would find other investors if mine owners have failed to maintain operations and keep jobs for the people of Zambia.
The Head of State said he would not allow Glencore Plc’s local unit to retrench about 4,000 miners and that Zambia, which is Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, would find other investors to take over mining operations if the current owners have failed.
The company plans to suspend production at Mopani unit for 18 months while it invests US$950 million in building new shafts and upgrading plants amid copper price collapse on the international market.
The plan includes firing more than 4,000 employees, and a bigger number of contract workers.President Lungu said at the weekend in Mufulira that Mopani should use the profits it made during times of high copper prices to sustain its workforce now.
Fr. Bwalya said President Lungu was 100 percent justified in opposing the behaviour of some mining companies to rush into laying off workers when they encounter operational challenges and yet they made huge profits when the price of copper was high.
“President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s challenge to Mopani Copper Mines to hand over the mine to Government if they have failed to run it should be supported by all patriotic Zambians because it provides the right framework and philosophy in dealing with foreign investors.
‘‘We accept the reality that foreign investors come to our country to make money,” said Mr. Bwalya, but added that the country must refuse to be bullied by multi-nationals.
He said it was time Zambians refused to accept traits of blackmail and threats of closures by investors and look elsewhere for proper and sustainable development.
“But we should never accept a situation where they would reap huge profits and in the end abandon our people at the sight of challenges triggered by trends in the global economy.
‘‘Mining companies should demonstrate loyalty to our people who work hard to make them generate huge profits when the price of copper is good,” said Fr. Bwalya.
He said it was sad that when they (investors) make windfall profits they cheat and refuse to share the benefits with the miners.
“It is against this background that President Lungu’s bold stance should be commended and supported so that foreign investors, especially mining companies, can learn to treat us fairly.
‘‘We should all be reminded that the decision by mining companies to lay off workers this time around is another wake-up call for our country to make progress in taking full charge of key sectors in our economy especially the mining industry,” said Fr. Bwalya.