UPDATE 4-Zambia's president vows to prevent job losses at Barrick mine

Mon Feb 23, 2015 12:36pm EST
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* More than 2,000 workers strike at copper mine

* Revenue authority relaxes tax refund rules

* Zambia trying to end rows over royalties, taxes (Adds Barrick comment)

By Chris Mfula

LUSAKA, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Zambia's president said on Monday his government would not allow mining jobs to be lost at Barrick Gold's copper mine after workers went on strike to protest against the company's plans to suspend operations due to high royalties.

Zambia in January hiked mineral royalties for open pit operations to 20 percent from 6 percent, prompting Toronto-based Barrick to say it would suspend operations at its Lumwana Copper Mine, which supports nearly 4,000 direct jobs.

In a statement, President Edgar Lungu suggested one measure to be explored could be to find a new partner to jointly run the mine with the government if Barrick closed it.

The newly-elected president said the mine should remain operational and that he would "not allow a single mining job to be lost". This mirrors the populist policies of his late predecessor Michael Sata.

Barrick co-president Kelvin Dushnisky said on Monday the company does not expect Zambia to take aggressive steps against Barrick to keep the mine open. Dushnisky met with Lungu in Zambia last week.   Continued...