CHINESE-OWNED CNMC Luanshya Copper Mine’s Baluba Underground operation has been closed and placed under care and maintenance , and about 1,640 workers have been sent home. According to a notice by Managing Director Luo Xin Geng, all workers have been put on forced, unpaid leave. Workers with accrued leave days have been put on paid leave but will be treated as being on unpaid leave their outstanding dues have been paid.
Luanshya Copper Mine management has also decided to shut its treatment plant, which is the concentrator at Baluba Mine, where copper is processed before it is taken to Chambishi for smelting.
Geng said the company has been forced to suspend operations following Copperbelt Energy’s Decision to reduce power supply to the mine by 30 per cent.
On Thursday, CEC wrote to Baluba, indicating that they would be effecting this force majeure on September 8, effective midnight. Now this mine uses about 55 megawatts on average. Out of that 55, our Mulyashi Open Pit Mine uses about 37 megawatts and Baluba Underground Mine uses 17 megawatts, which brings the total power consumption to 54 megawatts,” the source said. “The remainder one megawatt is the one you often hear the Energy Regulation Board saying the mine should free up the excess energy it does not use but we need that little extra energy anyway.” The sources explained that CEC had informed CLM management that the power that would be made available to the mine was only 40 megawatts, starting tomorrow. “Now Mulyashi runs at 37 megawatts and now when they give us 40 megawatts of power, we will remain with only three megawatts and Baluba runs with 17 megawatts. In essence, what are they telling us? What can we do with three megawatts? We need 37 megawatts to run Mulyashi and we need 17 megawatts to run Baluba! In total, we need 54 megawatts. The major issue here is power and that power deficit is what is making us close the mine because we can’t operate Baluba Underground Mine with three megawatts.” The sources indicated that mine management was given an option by CEC to pay for imported power, which was at a higher cost compared to the local generation. They said imported power was 30 per cent higher than the power generated locally by CEC. The sources said looking at many other factors, including cost, it was not feasible to run Baluba Underground Mine with imported power. “Sending people home, placing the mine under care and maintenance is a last resort. It’s a necessary evil and it’s something that has to be done. There is no other option left,” the sources said. They said the government, through the ministries of labour and mines, as well as unions, had been informed of the decision. “The unions have been briefed and they will be written to today or tomorrow morning. With the closure of Baluba, only Mulyashi Mine will remain operational at CLM. The 40 megawatts will be enough to run Mulyashi. In terms of labour force involved in actual mining, we are remaining with 300 miners working at the treatment plant and slightly over 700 for the mining section. It’s about a thousand plus workers, but that does not include those working at the school for the mine and the hospital and the clinics. Those will remain,” the sources said. The sources said those in government were to blame for the situation because there were no plans to mitigate or prevent the effects of the massive power deficit the country was facing. They said tough decisions were supposed to be made between June and July because the government saw this coming. “So take it that the 1,640 workers being sent home have not been declared redundant; they have been put on forced leave and they will just be getting an allowance for upkeep because they will not be working. They will not be getting salaries but just an allowance. If there will be a decision to reopen the mine, they will be officially communicated to,” sources said.