Lusaka ~ Wed, 20 Jan 2021
By Brightwell Chabusha
The Zambian government has acted to save thousands of jobs on the Copperbelt by taking over operations at Mopani Copper Mines.
Glencore, which owned majority shareholding in Mopani, had planned to place the mine under care and maintenance claiming low copper prices.
But the government quickly came in through the ZCCM-IH to take over the mine to avert possible job losses on the Copperbelt.
ZCCM-IH has agreed to buy Glencore’s majority stake in Mopani Copper Mines in a $1.5 billion deal funded by debt.
The entity is also expected to seek a new investor, Mines Minister Richard Musukwa revealed at a briefing on Tuesday.
Last year, Glencore attempted to suspend operations at Mopani because of low copper prices and COVID-19 disruptions, prompting a government threat to revoke the company’s mining licences.
Mr Musukwa said during a briefing today that more than 15,000 workers would have lost their jobs if the mine was closed.
Musukwa said the country will try to attract a new investor in Mopani, adding that companies from Britain, Canada, China, South Africa, Turkey and Qatar have expressed interest.
The minister said Mopani produced 34,479 tonnes of copper last year, up 14.6% from 2019, and the expansion projects will boost output beyond 150,000 tonnes a year.
Glencore said it holds 73% of Mopani through an 81.2% stake in Carlis.
Under the deal, ZCCM-IH will acquire the remaining 90% of Mopani from Carlisa, giving it full control of the company for an indicative $1.
Mr Musukwa said ZCCM-IH will repay the loan in 10-17 years depending on copper prices, which are currently near their highest in eight years at about $8,000 a tonne.
Asked how Zambia can afford to take on more debt, a mines ministry official said: “It’s not sitting on the ministry of finance. The company is able to pay on its own.”