With about 60 percent of the country's
workforce, copper mining has historically been the lifeline of Zambia's
economy. But lately and because of the fallen prices of copper on the world
market, the Zambian economy has been struggling.
Zambian newspapers are full of
stories about hundreds if not thousands of mine workers losing or slated to
lose their jobs. The latest is the Konkola Copper Mine, the country's biggest
mining company which reports say is about to cut one thousand 321 jobs by the
end of April this year.
Zambia's minister for mines and
minerals development Maxwell Mwale told VOA the dire global
economic situation has impacted Zambia's mining industry.
areas that they (mining companies) are cutting the jobs are like in the social
areas. That is schools, the hospitals and also at the corporate head office,
but of course that will include some employees in their business units. Now the
impact on our economy basically there'll be a reduction in terms of government
revenue through pay as you earn. But the operation of Konkola Copper Mines will
continue, though as I've indicated they might put Nampundwe under care and
maintenance which has about 300 employees. Obviously that will mean a loss of
revenue to government," he said.
admits that if Konkola Copper Mines goes ahead to cut over a thousand jobs in
April it would bring the total number of jobs lost in the mining industry to
he said the Zambian government has told companies like the Mopani Copper Mines
to turn their operations over to the government which would in turn find
possible private investors.
have Mopani Copper Mines which is our second largest operating company in the
country. It has indicated to us that they want to close permanently Mufulira
Mines and put under care maintenance the Nkana underground operations. Now if
they were to close those operations there will be severe negative impact in
terms of our economy in terms of the social economic environment of our people
in the Copper Belt and also the political implications. So what we have done as
a government, we've engaged Mopani to ensure that if they don't want to
continue the operation of these mines, they should surrender them to us as a
government so that we can transfer them to any would-be private investor," he
rejected any suggestion that the government went back on its earlier promise to
nationalize some mining companies as the Mine Workers Union of Zambia have been
government believes that the mining industry should be private-led. We are not
at all going to nationalize the mines, but we believe that we should form a
very good social partnership arrangement that would take investors as our
social partners. So we expect some degree of responsibility from them so that
the social well-being of our citizens is not affected," Mwale said.
praised Zambian mine workers for their patience and understanding of the global
economic crisis which has affected the mining industry. But he said government
was mindful that the workers' patience might run out, particularly when the
livelihoods of thousands of people are being affected.