Tuesday, December 31, 2013

KCM has insulted govt - Musukwa
By Misheck Wangwe in Kitwe
Mon 11 Nov. 2013, 14:01 CAT

MINES deputy minister Richard Musukwa says KCM management has persistently insulted the intelligence of the government by giving flimsy and inconsistent reasons over its intentions of mass layoffs.

Meanwhile, ZEMA is investigating KCM and other mining houses on latest reports of pollution of the Kafue River, the Mwambashi stream and other sources of water supply on the Copperbelt.

The government has since announced plans to constitute a team of experts to investigate KCM's operations.

In an interview in Kitwe, Musukwa said the investors in KCM had seriously disappointed the government with their behaviour and the manner in which they wanted to blackmail the government through maneuvers to retrench over 1,500people.

"They gave reasons for their latest intentions to layoff our people as automation, mechanisation and dwindling grades of the ore. The dwindling grades of the ore are a common scenario in a mining operation and it cuts across all mining companies. Any best mining operation of a world class nature like as KCM as it claimed, should be able to plan and organise operations at the lowest price and the lowest grade of the metal and that's how the copper business is managed because it is very unpredictable," Musukwa said.

"These reasons that KCM is advancing today, in case they have forgotten, are different from those they gave five months ago when they wanted to retrench 2,000 people."

He said five months ago, KCM did not mention anything to do with its plans to take the route of automation, mechanisation and challenges of dwindling grades but rather gave a set of different reasons such as fluctuating copper prices and challenges to appreciate various tax incentives that the government had put in place.

Musukwa said KCM would not be allowed to manipulate Zambians over their own mineral resources.

"People have not been very productive recently because this KCM have brought fear that they will lose jobs. People are operating as if they have no jobs, their morale is dampened. Many Zambians world over are known to be hardworking and they account for their presence at the place of work. Our wish has been that KCM must drive our people to the level of production of world class nature," Musukwa said.

Meanwhile,deputy minister of labour Rayford Mbulu said the government was managed on the premise of laws and it would not allow people to be condemned to misery by KCM and its intentions of mass layoffs.

Mbulu said KCM disrespected the government from the time it announced its intentions to cut jobs of about 1,529 mineworkers through the media without even communicating to the state.

"This government is premised on laws and these laws must be respected. What we have gotten from KCM is embarrassing to say the least. They (KCM management) must know that the employment and labour relations Act Cap 268of the laws must be respected to the latter.

And KCM breached this when they chose to go to the media before they could even engage government," said Mbulu."Acts of intransigency from KCM will never be tolerated."

KCM chief executive officer Kishor Kumar announced at a press briefing in Kitwe a week ago the company's intentions to lay off 1,529 mineworkers.
Kumar cited dwindling copper ore and the company's new route of mechanization and automation as major reasons for the layoffs.

President Michael Sata, however, warned Kumar that he would be sorted out if he attempted to fire even a single employee and that KCM's operating license would be revoked if the mining company wanted to blackmail government with mass layoffs following the decision to stop the export of copper concentrates.

On Wednesday, it was learnt that KCM had in fact terminated employment of about 76 employees, a situation that angered government.

Labour minister Fackson Shamenda later told journalists in Lusaka that government was extremely disappointed and annoyed with Kumar who had dismissed President Sata's warning that the government would revoke the company's license if it fired even one worker, as mere rhetoric.

On Friday, Kumar left the country in unclear circumstances before he could be taken to task by the government over his statement against President Sata's directive.

Vedanta Resources, the majority shareholders in KCM, have since appointed a KCM vice-president for Human Capital Management David Kaunda to act as chief executive officer in the absence of Kumar.

And in an interview yesterday, Zambia Environmental Management Agency northern region manager Patson Zulu said the matter was being seriously investigated and KCM had already been written to.

Minister of Local Government and Housing Emerine Kabanshi on Thursday warned Konkola Copper Mines over its alleged pollution of the Kafue River, saying it had resulted into the closure of two water treatment plants for Nkana Water and Sewerage Company.

"We have recorded such cases and I can say it's not only KCM, we are also investigating other mining companies, the polluters of the surface water bodies on the Copperbelt. Apparently it's not just the Kafue River but also other streams critical to human life. We have identified a number of firms that will be summoned over this pollution and we are meeting them because this is a matter of urgency and it's very serious," Zulu said.

He warned that mining companies that were culprits of the pollution would be taken to court and risked having their plants shut down for breaking the law.

Zulu said over KCM and allegations of pollution, ZEMA was closely working with the Department of Water Affairs, National Water and Sanitation Council as well as Nkana Water and Sewerage Company to establish facts and the extent of pollution.

"For KCM, we will not give more details because the matter is being investigated and we will be pre-empting the minister's statement. It's only fair that we leave it to the minister and details will be availed to you at a later stage," Zulu said.

At a press briefing in Lusaka last week, Kabanshi warned KCM that the government would deal with it firmly if it fails to stop the excessive pollution levels which had affected Mwambashi dam in Kalulushi and Mutipa stream in Chingola on the Copperbelt Province.

Kabanshi said the government will be left with no option but to shut down KCM's operations at their tailings leach plant until the company puts up remedial measures to protect people's lives.

She further said the government would not allow a situation where mining companies continue to deliberately fail to meet environmental regulations.

Kabanshi, who on Saturday visited NWSC in Kitwe, directed KCM to take its environmental protection obligations seriously and stop discharging mining effluents carelessly.

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