Glencore’s Zambia unit to keep most workers despite suspension

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LUSAKA (Reuters) – Glencore’s Zambian subsidiary Mopani Copper Mines will retain most of its workers even after copper production is suspended following a drop on the metal’s price, a source close to the company said on Friday.

An electricity shortage in the southern African nation and weaker copper prices have put pressure on the mining industry, threatening output, jobs and economic growth in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer.

The source said Mopani was in talks with the government and unions over Glencore’s plan to suspend operations and invest to improve efficiency at the mine.

The president of Zambia’s largest mining union said the move by the government could help save thousands of jobs.

“Over the next 18 months, Mopani will invest $500 million in expansion projects. A large number of employees are expected to be kept for mine development and care and maintenance,” the source told Reuters.

“We want Mopani to be efficient and competitive in the global copper market. It will also extend the mine life.”

Mining and trading company Glencore said on Monday it would suspended dividends, sell assets and suspend some copper production at Mopani and its Katanga Mining division in Democratic Republic of Congo for 18 months.

Mopani is the second largest employer in Zambia after the government with about 21,000 direct and contract workers.

Mopani would offer workers at the mining firm voluntary separation packages in line with Zambian law after the talks with the government ended, the source said.

A second source said the company was talking to the government and unions, but job cuts had not be discussed.

“As far as we are concerned everything is normal. We are undertaking a study to optimise our production efficiency with the unions and the government. Until we conclude that study we can’t make any pronouncements,” the source at Mopani said.

Glencore, Vedanta Resources, China’s NFC Africa and CNMC Luanshya Copper Mine have all said they will shut down some operations in Zambia because of the harsh business environment.

Electricity shortages and the slide in copper have driven the kwacha currency to record lows amid a sell-off in commodity-linked currencies as China’s economy slows.

By Chris Mfula (Reuters)

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