Canada's First Quantum Zambia mine layoffs irk government

Fri Apr 3, 2015 7:01am EDT
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LUSAKA (Reuters) - The Zambian unit of Canada's First Quantum Minerals said more than 300 workers were being laid off at its Kansanshi mine, drawing a government call for redundancies to be canceled on the grounds it had not been informed as required by law.

Kansanshi said in a statement on Friday 343 workers were being laid off at the mine, mainly from contracting companies building a smelter which was completed in December 2014.

The company said government officials had been told of the job losses late last year and that affected workers were employed by companies outside its control. It said every effort would nonetheless be made to redeploy them.

However, Zambia's chief government spokesman Chishimba Kambwili said the company had not informed the government about the planned retrenchments as required under Zambian law.

"All mining companies are aware of the standing order which obliges them to consult the government through the Ministry of Labour before any decision to retrench any worker is effected," Kambwili said in a statement.

Kambwili appealed to the management of Kansanshi mine to immediately re-instate all the workers who had been laid off.

The previous Zambian administration under the late former president Michael Sata also took exception to attempts by foreign companies to lay off workers, a stance which unnerved investors in Africa's second-biggest copper producer.

More recently, the government has been in various tax tussles with mining companies. But last week President Edgar Lungu directed the finance and mining ministers to change royalties on mining firms by April 8 in response to an outcry by industry and labor over sharp increases.

A number of projects are planned to expand annual copper production at Kansanshi from the 230,000 tonnes achieved in 2011 to 400,000 tonnes in 2015, according the company's website.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Ed Stoddard and David Holmes)