First Quantum Minerals to let 2,500 workers in Zambia go over tax hikes

Canada’s First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) became the first top miner with operations in Zambia to react to a planned mining tax increase in the southern African nation by announcing on Friday it would have to lay off 2,500 workers at its local mines.

In an internal memo, the Toronto-based miner said the job cuts will be implemented in phases during the first quarter of 2019, adding they’ll be equally split between its Kansanshi and Sentinel mines.

First Quantum, which operates the Kansanshi and Kalumbila mines in Zambia, accounted for more than half of the country’s copper output last year.

“Reducing employee numbers should be a last resort after all other avenues of cost reduction have been exhausted. We would like to assure to all our employees that this is exactly the position we are in,” FQM Director of Operations at Sentinel, Matt Pascall, wrote according to Lusaka Times.

Africa’s second-largest copper producing country is set to introduce fresh mining duties next year and replace value-added tax (VAT) with a sales tax and increase royalties.

The government estimates that mining tax revenues will climb to $1.3 billion next year thanks to the changes, up from $800 million this year. Zambia’s Chamber of Mines, however, says revenues will rise to only around $840 million.

First Quantum, which operates the Kansanshi and Kalumbila mines in Zambia, accounted for more than half of the country’s copper output last year, and is the largest individual taxpayer. Mining operations in the country, in turn, account for 84% of First Quantum’s revenue.