UPDATE 1-Zambian mining jobs at risk due to power, copper price woes - union

Tue Sep 1, 2015 1:45pm EDT
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(Recasts with union comment)

By Chris Mfula

LUSAKA, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Thousands of miners in Zambia may lose their jobs due to power supply problems and sinking copper prices, the head of the country's largest mining union said on Tuesday.

Erratic electricity supplies have hit the mining industry in the southern African nation, the continent's second biggest copper producer, where the bulk of electricity is water-powered.

Meanwhile the price of copper is at six-year lows, weighed on by an economic slowdown in China, one of the world's biggest consumers of metals and other raw materials.

"Some of our members have already been told that they will either be sent on forced leave without pay, recess, which means they stay home on full pay to avoid paying them other expenses like over-time allowance or outright retrenchment," Nkole Chishimba, president of the Mine Workers' Union of Zambia told Reuters, without naming the firms.

Chishimba said the government should urgently call for a meeting with mining companies and the trade unions to discuss the looming jobs cuts. The MUZ represents about 25,000 workers, he said.

Zambian state power utility Zesco Ltd said on Tuesday it will deepen power cuts after water levels at its largest hydro power station dropped following a drought, potentially affecting mining.

"Power generation at Kariba North Bank power station has been reduced to 305 megawatts from 540 megawatts," Zesco spokeswoman Bessie Banda said.   Continued...