JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Copper mining company Mopani Copper Mines plc said on Tuesday that it had placed its mining operations on care and maintenance and a number of projects on hold.
Mopani, owned 73.1% by Glencore, is an integrated copper producer located in the Copperbelt of central Zambia.
The announcement, the company said, followed a number of meetings with Zambian government Ministries to provide an update of its comprehensive operational review.
In a press statement to Mining Weekly, the company said that the “very challenging” operating, regulatory and macroeconomic environments had placed significant pressure on the business.
In addition to the impacts of a rapid decline in the copper price, Mopani’s situation had been further impacted by the critical disruptions to international mobility, transportation and supply chains arising from Covid-19.
A number of projects the company was in the process of commissioning have had to be placed on hold until key personnel are able to travel to site.
In the circumstances, and following consultation with its majority shareholder and funder, Mopani said it could no longer continue operating its mining operations and would transition them to care and maintenance with effect from 8 April.
Regarding the smelter and refinery, material on site would continue to be processed until further notice.
Mopani said that it believed that the transition to care and maintenance would help to protect the company’s value and preserve the option to deliver growth projects when market conditions improve.
During the care-and-maintenance period, Mopani said it would look to continue to maintain its commitments to the national workforce and host communities.
It would be engaging the government and unions regarding the nature and duration of that support, but expected that permanent Zambian employees, excluding management, would be sent home on their base salary.
Impacted unionised contractor employees would receive an ex gratia payment. This measure would be over and above what was required by contractual agreements.
The company said that employees and their dependants would continue to receive healthcare and that it would remain committed to its corporate social responsibility projects.
The health and safety of the workforce and surrounding communities were the company’s top priority.
It would engage with its employees, contractors and local communities regarding the impact of any operational change and remained committed to supporting its community projects, hospitals and schools during the care-and-maintenance period.
Mopani would work with the local authorities and community leaders on how best it could continue to support its partners in light of the government decrees relating to minimising the spread of Covid-19.
In April 2000, Mopani purchased assets of the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Limited (ZCCM), made up of underground mines, a concentrator, a smelter and a refinery at Mufulira mine site and underground mines, opencast mines, a concentrator and a cobalt plant at Nkana mine site in Kitwe.
ZCCM-IH still has a 10% shareholding and First Quantum Minerals a 16.9% shareholding.