Saturday, December 20, 2008

LCM closure leaves 1,500 miners jobless

LCM closure leaves 1,500 miners jobless
Written by Zumani Katasefa in Kitwe
Saturday, December 20, 2008 7:22:02 AM

OVER 1,500 miners have been rendered jobless following Luanshya Copper Mine (LCM)’s formal closure this week.

The mine management has even proposed to finish paying terminal benefits to its retrenched miners by January 31, 2009.

In a brief addressed to all employees and signed by LCM chief operations manager James Bethel, the mining firm has since been placed on care and maintenance.

"This decision was not arrived at easily and only after alternative options have been exhausted, none of which unfortunately deliver a sustainable operation. Care and maintenance as it implies entails the shutting down of the operation and retrenchment of all staff excluding a small number of employees who will continue their duties thereby ensuring that the property and assets are protected and that the Baluba Mine does not flood," read the brief in part.

Bethel stated that the last blast would take place at Baluba Mine today afternoon (Saturday), while loading and trimming at Baluba Mine would be concluded by December 22, 2008.

"Hoisting will be completed by 23rd December and all milling is to be completed by 24th December 2008," he stated.

According to Bethel, the concentrator clean up and the final dispatches would be completed by December 31, 2008 while the payment of benefits due to the employees would be done in accordance with the applicable contracts of employment.

"Each employee shall be notified individually in writing as to when their duties would be suspended and they will no longer be required to report for work. Employees will be advised in their letters whether or not they will be required to work their notice period.

Employees not working their notices will be paid accordingly," read the brief.

Bethel further stated that workers would be paid their bonuses by December 19 (yesterday), and that December salaries and wages would be paid to the workers by December 31, 2008 while notice period and normal salaries, wages and terminal benefits would be paid by January 31,2009.

"The anxiety that this has caused is regrettable and it is the wish of management that this process be conducted in a structured and fair manner with the cooperation of all affected persons," he stated.

Bethel stated that as a low-grade mining operation, the firm had been unable to escape the reality of the low metal prices and the global financial economic crisis.

"The recovery of the metal prices to an acceptable level will prompt the re-opening of the operation and previously employed staff will be firstly considered for re-employment," stated Bethel.

There are about 1,700 employees at the mining firm and following the shutdown of the company, only a skeleton staff of 100 workers would remain to do the care and maintenance work.

Meanwhile, Mine Workers Union (MUZ) secretary general Oswell Munyenyembe expressed displeasure over the move to shutdown the mine and only hoped that a reliable investor would be found soon so that the mine could be reopened and create jobs for the people of Luanshya.

Last weekend, President Rupiah Banda visited Luanshya Copper Mine and held talks with stakeholders.

President Banda directed the mine management to first find money to pay the workers before retrenching them and also to halt the sale of equipment as scrap metal.

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