Having being born on the Copperbelt and spent fifteen years of my employment life on the Copperbelt and in particular Chingola at KCM, I am saddened by the dwindled economic activities in the towns of Chililabombwe, Chingola and Kitwe.
This inactivity has been worsened by the legal battles that the company has faced for over three years now. These have resulted in a low or close-to-nothing of production activities at the once giant Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).
Suffice to say that Konkola Copper Mines has been a source of concern for many stakeholders because the firm has not been operating optimally owing to financial challenges. At this point, the need to recapitalize KCM so that there is improved production is urgent.
Zambians may wish to know that the average integrated production at KCM has dropped by 65% from 7.5kilo tonnes per month before 2019 when Vedanta was running the mine to 2.7kilo tonnes today.
As at 2019 before liquidation KCM was a major employer with 12,000 jobs but today these have declined to 5,000. Where are the 7000 former miners and their families?
The current liabilities of the mine which stood at $786 million in May 2019 had now tripled to $2.4 billion by March of this year.
Suppliers’ liabilities have increased from US$220 million to US$778 million by May 2022.
While production has gone down, the mine is slowly dying and employees are going for years without any increment, Corporate Social Responsibility Projects such as support to hospitals, schools, soccer teams, sustainable empowerment by KCM is operating at an equal to zero funding, the communities , the people of Chingola, Chililabombwe and Kitwe who suffer the consequences of large scale mining are left vulnerable not benefiting anything.
As this is happening, we note that huge sums of money have been spent by KCM on legal fees which would have been put to good use.
As a former employee of KCM who worked under the Trust Schools and later under Corporate Social Responsibility , I feel saddened by the current status of the mine and the dwindling economic fortunes of the towns on the Copperbelt that are slowly turning into ghost towns.
It is immoral at this particular time to just sit and watch things going to their lowest.
As an enlightened citizen of the country and one with a duty to speak on behalf of the people of Zambia, I do not just want to be a spectator in the dying of the mine that has educated us and brought us to where we are but a participant in the governance of the country and make a meaningful contribution to my country.
Mind you my father was a miner at ZCCM for all his career and so the mine has always been part of us.
Twalibamwana shi mine mpaka twaba bana mine, so we can’t watch our mines neglected on the Copperbelt.
My call to duty is to appeal to the UPND Government to expedite the dialogue with Vedanta without delay. The matter is out of court for talks and one wonders why the delay now.
Conclude the talks and allow that asset to be recapitalized so that economic activities of Copperbelt are brought back to life.
It is a well-known secret that Vedanta is the legal owner of the mine with 80% shareholding. 80% share holding is not child’s play, its a huge stake in the mine and government must therefore work out a win-win formula for both parties which is the government itself and Vedanta.
We all are fully aware that the takeover of the asset in the manner it was done by the previous regime was highly irregular and unprofessional that’s why ZCCM _IH and the Zambian government has been in court for years.
Government must look at the offers on the table and see which one is promising to revive KCM and create jobs for the people of Copperbelt.
If the KCM asset continues to deteriorate, there is a risk of KCM shutting down resulting in a significant loss of employment.
It is a good initiative of Government and Vedanta to sign a legal suspension agreement , that was our call.
We ask that this long awaited decision should be taken as soon as possible, preferably by this November, in order to allow for the resumption of operations at full capacity of the mine and as we slowly approach the festive period , do we honestly want to enter 2023 with this same status? It is not healthy and not right.
Government must make a bold decision on KCM which will help the people. Critics will always be there but the role of government is to ensure that the people and national assets are secured from destruction.
Yours in National Service
Office Bearer Democratic Party
Former Corporate Social Responsibility Liason Officer KCM