Govt reps sitting on KCM board in dark about laying off over 1500 workers – Minister

The Zambian government says press reports that Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) was going to retrench over 1500 workers came as a shock.

And government has constituted a Task Force to audit the operation KCM.

Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma revealed this evening when he featured ZNBC Television’s Sunday Interview programme monitered by Zambian Eye. He said government was caught an unaware as management at the Copper giant firm never briefed government about the decision.

He said even a government representative and Mines Permanent Secretary were not aware of the decision despite them being part of Board.

“We were all caught unaware because a day before I had a meeting with them (KCM) in my office,” Yaluma said. “The people sitting on the board did not know anything it was not discussed.”

The Mines Minister explained that he gets regular updates adding that his Permanent Secretary briefs him every Mondays but he was in the dark about this decision by KCM.

The laying off of workers decision according to the Minister, could have been done outside the Board.  He said it was surprising that despite that KCM had a meeting with him a day before the decision was announced but they never raised the issue.

Yaluma said the only issues or challenges KCM had raised before his office is the mineral royalty which the Mining firm says is too high. He said KCM has also requested government that they be allowed to import fuel.

KCM says the decision was taken in a bid to move towards mechanisation and automation in view of decreased copper grades at some of its mines.

But Yaluma says such a process is supposed to be gradual and not abrupt. He said the government representatives could have also seen the amount of investment put towards mechanisation and automation and advise government.

“My people, my PS who seats should have reported that they have put up such investment instead of just coming out like that,” he said.

KCM as business entity should have seen that investing in the money was not viable as they are trying to claim now. So for them say that it doesn’t just add up, the Minister said.

He said if business was going down they should have come back to government and explain the situation. In June when they wanted to retrench 2000 workers we discussed extensively.

“After going through the data we told them that they was no justification to retrench people and they agreed and closed the file,” he said.

When asked that does the PF government want KCM and other business to sticky to primitive way of doing business in order to keep jobs, Yaluma said the process should be gradual unlike what has happened at KCM. He said Mupani has started the process.

The Minister retaliated that it is the PF government is policy to create jobs through private investment saying it will not allow KCM to lay off workers. He said the government was clear about private investment and assured investors that they are free to carry on their businesses though will not allow companies flouting out laws.

Asked whether the PF government intends to nationalize KCM or any other mine, Yaluma said the Mines will remain in private ownership.

“We are going flat out to entice investors to come in and invest,” he said.

The Minister however revealed that KCM was not doing but government was ready to help the Mining firm once it is made aware of the challenges.

“As it is KCM is not very, very liquid looking at the performance,” he said.

He said in June when KCM wanted to lay off 2000 workers government had to move in quickly and after going through the data, it was agreed by both parties that the decision was not justified.

Earlier in the day on Sunday, Yaluma announced that a Task Force had been constituted to look into operations of KCM. He said the Task Force will collect data and agreement the previous government had entered into with KCM.

Yaluma also revealed that another Task Force has been constituted to look into the operations of all mines.

And Yaluma whose ministry also oversees the Energy Sector assured that the country will have sorted out the problem of power deficit by end of 2014.

“Come December next year they will be no load-sheddding” he said. He said the government is putting a system that should be able to meet the demand by end of 2014.