Strikers return on government promise mine will stay open

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Workers at the Lumwana copper mine, owned by Barrick Gold Corp., have today called off their strike after the government said they would not lose their jobs, Reuters news agency reports, quoting the permanent secretary in Zambia’s North-Western province.

Barrick directly employs some 4,000 people through its Lumwana operation
Barrick directly employs some 4,000 people through its Lumwana operation

“I addressed the workers at Lumwana last night and assured them that the government position is that no job should be lost. They agreed to resume normal duties this morning and as we speak the strike has ended,” Amos Malupenga told Reuters.

More than 2,000 workers went on strike on Monday (February 23) to demand an explanation of their fate when Barrick closes down. Amos Malupenga, the top civil servant in Zambia’s North-Western province, told Reuters that the over 2,000 unionised miners are demanding to know their future when the mine is closed. Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold miner, announced in December a suspension of its Zambia operations over a new tax law that imposes a 20 percent gross royalty on revenue without considering profitability. The Canadian company said that the introduction of the royalty left it with no choice but to initiate the process of suspending operations at Lumwana.

However, Zambia’s president Edgar Lungu has promised that his government would not allow mining jobs to be lost at Barrick Gold’s copper mine. He suggested that the government could look into finding a new partner to jointly run the mine if Barrick ceased operations. According to Reuters, Barrick co-president Kelvin Dushnisky said on Monday the company does not expect Zambia to take aggressive steps against Barrick to keep the mine open. Dushnisky said he was hopeful the two sides will find a solution in the coming weeks but, if not, his organisation would suspend operations at Lumwana.

Barrick acquired the Lumwana mine through its $6.3 billion acquisition of Canadian copper miner Equinox in 2011. According to the Toronta-headquartered Barrick, the mine supports nearly 4,000 direct jobs in the area and produced 138 million pounds of copper in the first nine months of 2014.