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7 February, 2024To protect jobs at Konkola Copper Mine (KCM) Zambian unions are meeting with the Zambian President and the development ministry as part of their campaign strategy for resolving disputes and for production levels to be revived. The mine employs over 3,000 permanent workers with more than 10,000 workers employed by sub-contractors along the value chain.
KCM, which has copper and cobalt mines at Nchanga, Konkola, Nkana, and Nampundwe, and a smelter, is 80 per cent owned by Indian multinational Vedanta Resources. The remaining 20 per cent is held by the state-owned Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investments Holdings.
After disputes over taxes and level of investments and the subsequent takeover of KCM from Vedanta Resources by the Zambian government in 2019, production at the mines plunged and the copper mine was put under liquidation. Vedanta took legal action through the arbitration court in London. However, negotiations began with the Zambian government leading to handing back control of KCM to Vedanta in September last year. Vedanta has since dropped the legal route and says it will invest over US$1 billion in KCM.
Speaking through a video conference at the Mining Indaba, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema confirmed that the government is engaging with Vedanta on resolving legacy debts at KCM.
The Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ), affiliated to IndustriALL, is campaigning for the resolving of a dispute over the payment of debts owed to contractors by KCM. The union says that if not resolved urgently, the dispute may lead to the closure of some mines.
MUZ, which welcomed the agreement between the Zambian government and Vedanta, calls for the immediate availability of the one-off payment promised to workers, which will be at least 20 per cent of their wages. In a reply to union demands, Vedanta says in a letter that it will implement the agreement.
Joseph Chewe, MUZ president says:
“Unions are concerned that the production levels remain low. The delays to return to full capacity are adversely affecting our members and the communities that rely on mining for livelihoods.”
IndustriALL mining director, Glen Mpufane, says:
"“We commend MUZ for standing for the rights of mineworkers at KCM, and for supporting dialogue between Vedanta and the Government of Zambia. Mineral resources are potential catalysts for socio-economic development. But this can only happen if mines like KCM are fully operational.”