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Namibia: 1,500 workers to be retrenched as mine closes

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3 April, 2020Skorpion Zinc mine has announced a suspension of operations on safety grounds and put the mine on “care and maintenance”, which risks turning the nearby community which depends on the mine for employment into a ghost town.

Nambian Broadcasting Corporation news report

The Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) says the decision was made before exhausting alternatives to continue operations, including selling the mine. MUN argues that the mine which has a supergene zinc ore body, mines zinc oxides and a refinery would not have problems finding other investors.

The mine closure will lead to a loss of over 1,500 jobs. One of the contracted companies, Basil Read, whose contract was terminated will retrench about 400 workers.

Skorpion Zinc said they had to bring forward the suspension of mining due to the COVID-19 partial lockdown in Namibia from 27 March to 17 April.

The MUN Skorpion branch chairperson, Peterson Kambinda says:

“Despite the implementation of a tripartite agreement to maintain harmonious labour relations, ensure job security and business accountability in the labour and employment sector during the State of Emergence period, Vedanta Resources (who owns the mine) has made a decision that would result in job losses to thousands of Namibians.

”The government of Namibia must intervene to stop the retrenchments.”

Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL mining director, says:

“Globally, mining companies are developing COVID-19 protocols to safeguard jobs, and most are putting moratoriums on retrenchments in the face of the pandemic. It is outrageous that Vedanta Resources announces retrenchments amid this crisis; it is out of sync with what is happening globally and should be condemned.”

According to Skorpion Zinc, pit failures at the opencast mine are to blame for the closure as they make mining unsafe. A safe entrance cannot be constructed because of rocks not strong enough to support openings or heavy loads without collapsing.

But the MUN says that there are three other mines operating in the area under the same geological formations. The union says other safer mining methods can be explored to save jobs.