Starved of electricity, First Quantum to cut 730 jobs at Zambia copper mine

Zambia facing its worst power crisis yet due to low water levels at the hydropower dams it relies on for 95% of generation capacity

FIRST Quantum Minerals Ltd. has told the Zambian government it plans to fire 730 workers at its Sentinel copper mine because it’s not getting enough power to keep operations running.

Zambia is facing its worst power crisis yet due to low water levels at the hydropower dams it relies on for 95% of generation capacity. The shortages have hit mines, which are also under pressure to cut costs and shed jobs to cope with a decline in commodity prices. Zambia is Africa’s second-biggest producer of copper after Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Sentinel mine in Kalumbila, in North Western province, has been unable to receive power from a transmission line connected to the capital, Lusaka, that was supposed to come online in September. The mine may also delay plans to hire another 360 workers.

“Our appeal is now to government to quickly energise the line from Lusaka to Kalumbila,” Joseph Chewe, general secretary at the Mineworkers Union of Zambia, said in comments broadcast by state television on Wednesday. With an increased supply of power, “we can avoid the job losses that have been announced,” he said.

Sentinel, which Zambian President Edgar Lungu officially opened in August, is receiving 70 megawatts of the 150 megawatts it requires, ZNBC reported, citing a letter from the company. A spokeswoman for the mine wasn’t immediately able to comment when contacted by phone.

Sentinel will produce 280,000 to 300,000 metric tons of copper at full capacity and it employed 1,264 people as of August, according to First Quantum.

-Bloomberg

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