Bwana Mkubwa sulphuric
acid plants with storage
tanks in the foreground
 
Lusaka, Zambia — MININGREVIEW.COM — 26 November 2008 – First Quantum Minerals Limited (FQM) – an emerging mining and metals company and one of the faster growing copper producers in Africa – has laid off 286 workers at its Bwana Mkubwa processing plant in Zambia. This follows the company’s decision to suspend copper output last month, after using up its copper ore stockpile at the facility.

Revealing this to Reuters here, National Union of Mining and Allied Workers (Numaw) president Mundia Sikufele also told the news agency that a further 50 workers would be laid off at Kansanshi Mining Limited – the company’s Zambian copper mine – due to the global financial crisis that has weakened metals prices.

The state-run ZNBC radio quoted other union officials as saying 26 workers at Chambishi Metals Plc – the country’s largest cobalt producer – had been sent on forced leave due to operational difficulties caused by weak metals prices. “The story is generally the same at all mines,” Sikufele said.

Officials of the copper mines were not immediately available for comment.

Meanwhile, mines and minerals development minister Maxwell Mwale has accused the copper mines of citing unsatisfactory reasons for the job cuts. He said it would be a violation of Zambian laws to sack employees without consulting the government.

Mwale added that he would institute investigations into why the other mining firms wanted to lay off workers, saying copper prices were still good enough to sustain mine operations.

Sikufele also said that the mining firms – which have differed with the government over new mining taxes introduced in April – were not sincere by blaming the current global financial crisis as one of reasons for cutting jobs.

“We are having discussions with them over these complaints and job cuts, but they should not use the financial crisis as an excuse to cut jobs,” he warned.

“They made huge profits when the prices were high, and they never shared the cake with the workers at the time,” Sikufele remarked.