First Quantum Plans to Retrench 730 Sentinel Workers, Union Says

  • Zambia facing its worst electricity shortage yet amid drought
  • Unions to meet mine management Friday about planned job cuts

First Quantum Minerals Ltd. plans to fire 730 workers at its Sentinel copper mine in Zambia, Africa’s second-biggest producer of the metal, a union leader said.

“They have written to us and we have a meeting with them tomorrow to see how best we can resolve that,” James Chansa, president of National Union for Miners and Allied Workers, said by mobile phone on Thursday. John Gladston, a spokesman for First Quantum in Zambia, didn’t answer his mobile phone when Bloomberg called seeking comment.

The mine, which started production early last year, is receiving less than half the 150 megawatts it needs to build up to full output as it awaits a new power line to be switched on, state-owned ZNBC TV reported yesterday, citing a company letter to the government. The line was due to be operational in September, First Quantum said a month earlier.

Zambia is facing its worst yet power shortage due to low water levels at the hydropower dams it relies on for 95 percent of supplies. Mining companies hit by the shortages and the lowest copper prices since 2009 have resorted to closures and job cuts. Already more than 10,000 mineworkers have lost their jobs, according to the Lusaka-based Post newspaper.

Sentinel, which will produce as much as 300,000 metric tons of copper at full capacity, employed 1,264 people as of August, according to First Quantum. The company said the same month it would cut almost 1,500 construction jobs and halted operations at the plant after Zesco, the state-owned power supplier, rationed its electricity to 42 megawatts. Normal power was restored later the same week.

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