Glencore-managed Mopani Copper Mines confirmed on Sunday that constructive discussions had taken place with the Zambian government and that mining operations would be restarted and a notice issued of the company’s intention to place the mining operations on care and maintenance after 90 days.
During the 90-day period, Mopani would continue to engage with the government on potential solutions to its current challenges, the company said in a media release to Mining Weekly.
The health and safety of the workforce and surrounding communities was the top priority of the company, which would engage with its employees, relevant contractors and local communities regarding the restart of operations.
Mopani stated that it remained committed to supporting its community projects, hospitals and schools.
Mopani, owned 73.1% by Glencore, is an integrated copper producer located near the city of Kitwe, in the Copperbelt.
In its first-quarter report, Glencore stated that Mopani’s first-quarter smelter restart processed 5 000 t of a potential 10 600 t of copper contained concentrates produced, while the smelter underwent a multi-month rebuild.
Last month, Mopani said in a media statement to Mining Weekly that 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 would be transitioning its mining operations 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 its 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.
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.