May 29, 2019 / 2:37 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Vedanta's Agarwal says willing to invest in Zambia

* Vedanta fights appointment of provisional liquidator

* Says court action will drive away investors (Updates with miners getting paid, details of interim management)

By Chris Mfula

LUSAKA, May 29 (Reuters) - Vedanta’s Chairman Anil Agarwal said on Wednesday he was prepared to invest in increasing Zambian copper production to 400,000 tonnes, creating another 10,000 jobs at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), but said “the right framework” had to be in place.

Vedanta is fighting Zambia’s decision this month to name a provisional liquidator to run Vedanta Resources’ KCM business. The government has accused KCM of breaching its operating licence.

Legal proceedings have been adjourned until June 4.

In an announcement published in Zambian newspapers, Agarwal said he had told Zambia’s president that, “with the right framework” Vedanta was prepared to increase output.

“I am prepared to invest what is required to increase production safely and sustainably to 400,000 tonnes, creating another 10,000 jobs at KCM and more social benefits,” he said.

KCM is one of Zambia’s largest employers, creating work for around 13,000 people.

It has previously said it would raise output to 400,000 tonnes per year, but instead production has fallen because of technical issues as infrastructure has aged, as well as problems such as power outages.

Production for the full-year ended March 2019 was around 90,000 tonnes.

Agarwal said Vedanta worked to comply with Zambia’s laws and tax requirements and said he did not understand why state-controlled ZCCM-IH, which holds around 20 percent of KCM, had gone to court to seek the appointment of a provisional liquidator.

A government source, speaking on condition of anonymity said the interim management team was working on a plan likely to be announced by the end of the week.

A miner told Reuters the workforce had been paid on Tuesday, around three days later than usual.

Vedanta Resources, partial owner of the Mumbai-listed Vedanta group of companies, is the majority shareholder of KCM.

Agarwal said “the current position” of the Zambian government would harm the country’s “investor-friendly status” and he said a lot of mining companies were considering leaving Zambia.

Other miners present in Zambia include Glencore and First Quantum. First Quantum said it had abandoned plans to lay off workers, but Glencore has said it is closing shafts that are no longer economic. (Reporting by Barbara Lewis in Johannesburg and Chris Mfula in Lusaka Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Kirsten Donovan)

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