Glencore perplexed by Zambia copper plant closure, to testify before UK parliament's tax avoidance inquiry

Swiss commodities giant Glencore on Monday expressed surprise over health and environment officials in Zambia's decision to immediately close part of its Mopani copper operations over complaints from residents of a nearby town.

Mopani Copper Mine operates four underground mines, a concentrator and a cobalt plant in the town of Kitwe and an underground mine, concentrator, smelter and refinery in the town of Mufulira.

Mopani employs 17,000 people in Zambia and its stated production capacity is 250,000 tonnes of copper and 2,400 tonnes of cobalt.

Fox Business reports only 1.5% of Mopani's output has been affected by the agency's heap leach closure notice over concerns of 'acid mist':

"The last visit by the Zambian Environmental Management Agency was in early February and the license was duly renewed on 21 February," said a Glencore spokesman. "We are therefore surprised that we are currently required to suspend this project, which we believe may be due to recent unsubstantiated reports in the local press," he added.

The Lusaka Times reported over the weekend that London-listed Glencore is set to appear in front of a UK parliamentary committee as part of an investigation into tax avoidance by multinationals in developing countries.

Zambia is Africa’s top copper producer, but it is one of the world’s poorest countries, and its revenue from the sector accounts for barely 1 percent of government revenue. It said last month that it would audit all of its mining houses to dig for back taxes of up to $1 billion.

Workers at Zambia’s largest copper mine Kansanshi stopped work over a wage dispute on Thursday but Zambia's National Broadcasting Corporation reports on Monday that the miners have started to return to work after accepting a 15% wage hike.

Kansanshi produces roughly 230,000 tonnes of copper annually and is owned by First Quantum Minerals.