Konkola Copper Mines shuts smelter

Konkola Copper Mines, a subsidiary of London-listed Vedanta Resources, has shut down its gigantic Nchanga Smelter in the city of Chingola, located in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province.

The closure, which is expected to last for 40 days, is explained by the company as a needed maintenance measure, which will debottleneck the smelting stream to its capacity and result in a 35% rise in production.

KCM will also commission a new electrostatic precipitator, which would help clean furnace gas loaded with dust after passing through the boiler.

But senior management is not happy about these expenses.

According to the local newspaper The Post, the company’s Manager of Public Relations & Communications, Shapi Shachinda, circulated a statement asking why KCM spends US$13 million on maintenance works when senior officials have not been paid their September salaries.

The Post's report adds that managers are also having a hard time understanding how come they are left without pay while, at the same time, the company hires 600 people for the maintenance works at the smelter.

Last month, workers had also a stressful episode when the producer asked 133 of them to take paid leave while reviewing its operations. The firm said the move was a result of the ongoing difficulties in the global copper industry.

The Nchanga smelter was commissioned in 2008 as part of the $3 billion investment in KCM expansions and upgrades since Vedanta acquired a majority stake in the company.

KCM accounts for more than 30% of the country's total copper output and Zambia is Africa’s second copper producer.