Zambia Delays Power Supply Cuts for Miners as Talks Continue

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Zambia delayed power supply cuts to the majority of mining companies to allow for talks with owners on how to minimize disruptions as Africa’s second-biggest copper producer confronts an electricity shortage.

Copperbelt Energy Corp. has delayed plans to cut electricity supplies by as much as 30 percent until after the weekend when consultations with miners will wrap up, spokeswoman Chama Nsabika said in an e-mail on Friday. CEC is the biggest power supplier that counts the local units of Vedanta Resource Plc and Glencore Plc among its customers.

Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma and Zambia Chamber of Mines President Jackson Sikamo also confirmed the delay.

Zambia is battling an electricity crisis as low water levels in the hydropower dams it depends on for more than 90 percent of supplies causes a shortfall of about 30 percent. The country has already rationed electricity to non-mining customers, with daily rolling blackouts lasting at least 6 hours.

The energy shortage threatens to slow economic growth to the lowest level since 2002, according to the Economics Association of Zambia. Power curbs on mines could reduce foreign exchange earnings and hurt the kwacha, given that copper accounts for about 70 percent of the country’s dollar income.

First Quantum Minerals and Barrick Gold Corp. have already had their electricity reduced because they are directly supplied by state-owned Zesco Ltd., Yaluma said in an interview in Lusaka, the capital. The other mines are supplied by Copperbelt Energy, or CEC as it’s known.

“We are yet to complete the discussions, so as it is right now, nothing is taking place,” he said, referring to electricity reductions by CEC. “We shall resolve something that is agreeable to both parties.”

A decision on the magnitude of cuts will be made next week following the discussions this weekend, Yaluma said.