Message Mer 11 Nov 2015 18:23

Glencore, Vedanta face struggle over Zambia copper mines cos

Glencore and Vedanta Resources' plans to slash costs at unprofitable copper mines in Zambia are facing strong resistance from the government and trade unions.

The Confederation of Trade Unions of Zambia President Joe Kamutumwa said on Wednesday that Mopani Copper Mines, owned by Glencore, should be forced to surrender its mines to the government if the company pursues a plan to lay off workers.

The union echoed comments by President Edgar Lungu who warned last week that he would not allow Glencore to lay off workers at Mopani as part of its plan to suspend production for 18 months at the mine.

Glencore's Zambia unit plans to lay off more than 3,800 workers in Africa's second-biggest copper producer, citing lower metal prices and rising production costs.

"We wish to take this opportunity to earnestly appeal to Mopani to adhere to our advice, failure to which the government should take over the running of the mines," Kamutumwa said.

Mopani spokesman Cephas Sinyangwe declined to comment saying the company was still discussing the planned job cuts with unions.

Swiss-based Glencore has pledged to cut its net debt to $20 billion by the end of 2016 to regain the trust of investors after its shares tumbled to record lows this year.

Konkola Copper Mines, owned by Vedanta Resources, said on Wednesday its Nchanga mine was making "unsustainable losses", responding to reports that the company was set to close the operation and lay off 2,500 contractors.

Details of a meeting about the future of Nchanga between Konkola and trade unions were leaked to a Zambian newspaper on Wednesday, which the company said was "regrettable".

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange hit $4,885 a tonne on Wednesday, its weakest level since a six-year low it touched in late August, after a gauge of China's factory health showed ongoing weakness in the world's top metals consumer.