LUSAKA, Sept 10 (Reuters) – Zambia is to hold talks with Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) over parent company Glencore’s plan to suspend operations after a drop in the metal’s price, the mining minister said on Thursday.
An electricity shortage and weaker copper prices have put pressure on Zambia’s mining industry, threatening output, jobs and economic growth in Africa’s second-biggest producer of the metal.
The power problems and slide in copper prices have driven the kwacha currency to record lows amid a sell-off in commodity-linked currencies as key consumer China’s economy has slowed, renewing pressure on Zambia to diversify its economy.
Glencore, Vedanta Resources and China’s NFC Africa and CNMC Luanshya Copper Mine have all said they will shut down some operations because of the harsh business environment.
Zambia minining minister Christopher Yaluma said that the government would not respond to Glencore directly but would instead negotiate with Mopani because it is more familiar with the local economy.
“We are about to start discussions with Mopani. We get very concerned when pronouncements are made about retrenchments,” he told reporters. “Glencore is a parent company, so when they talk, they are talking at that level. That is a little bit distant.”
Officials at Mopani were not available to comment.
The president of Zambia’s largest mining union said the move by the government could help to save thousands of jobs.
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