Swiss mining giant Glencore , hard hit by collapsing commodity prices, has notified the Zambian government that its Mopani copper mine will lay off nearly 3,800 workers, labour minister labour minister said Wednesday.
But president Edgar Lungu’ spokesperson Amos Chanda was quoted saying these are small, insignificant figures that no one should worry about. In the Zambian setup of extended families and ‘dependant neighbours’, this could translate into more than 10 000 households and 15 000 individuals been affected.
Glencore subsidiary Mopani Copper Mines cited low copper prices and power shortages in the southern African country as the reason for the job losses, Fackson Shamenda told AFP.
Glencore, which has lost 57 percent of its market value this year, is grappling with tumbling commodity prices as China‘s economic slowdown weighs on demand and sparks havoc across markets.
Mopani mine is the largest employer in the country’s mining sector with a workforce of 10,000, and the lay-offs would hit the country’s economy hard.
“They have given 60 days notice as required by law,” Shamenda said.
“They intend to lay off close to 3,800 workers but we have directed them to sit down with the unions,” he said.
Mine Workers’ Union of Zambia president Chishimba Nkole said the mine had indicated that 4,300 workers would be laid off, but the union would fight the cuts.
“These mines only need the workers when everything is well with them but that should not be the case. They should be with the workers even in bad times,” said Nkole.
As mining companies in resource-rich Africa bleed jobs due to plunging commodity prices, the ripple effect of redundancies has raised concern about social unrest amid declining economic growth.
Top mineral-producing countries like South Africa, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have seen cash-squeezed companies slash workforces, shut operations and reduce capacity.
Concerns over prolonged stalled Chinese growth have slashed iron ore prices by roughly a half, as coal, copper and other commodities have fallen by 20-40 percent.