28th June 2019. On the 20th of May, following weeks of protests and riots which had briefly brought tanks into Chingola, Zambia’s President – Edgar Lungu – announced his government’s intention to liquidate Konkola Copper Mines in order to ‘divorce’ Vedanta Resources as the majority shareholder and seek a new investor.
Miners and residents of Chingola in the Zambian Copperbelt had taken to the streets in anger about unpaid wages and conditions at KCM, despite being denied a police permit applied for by Nchanga Member of Parliament Chali Chilombo to stage a peaceful protest. This was the culmination of negative public opinion which had been building up against KCM for many years, and especially since mass layoffs of employees in 2013 and 2015 and outsourcing of labour.
In his announcement president Lungu accused KCM of breaching its operating licence and said the government’s decision to punish Vedanta’s subsidiary for breaches of environmental and financial regulations was a signal to other firms to follow the country’s laws.
On 21st May provisional liquidator Milingo Lungu of law firm Lungu, Simwanza & Company was appointed by ZCCM-IH (Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines – Investment Holdings, the government’s mining investment arm which owns 20.6% of KCM), at Lusaka High Court with power to take over the running of the mine and deal with all company matters.
Later that day various mine workers’ unions including the Mineworkers Union of Zambia, alongside other miners, ex-miners and residents of Chingola and Chililabombwe held a historic demonstration in the streets of Chingola in solidarity with the government’s decision.
In a press statement on 21st May Minister of Mines Richard Musukwa cited the layoff of employees, the indebtedness of KCM, vast unpaid bills to contractors and suppliers, and failure to invest in and develop its mining assets as reasons for KCM’s liquidation, saying the extreme action was taken ‘to make KCM viable’.Continue reading