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MEI Online: Commodities: Metallic Ores: Copper: Latest News: March 17th 2009


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:: Glencore Halting Zambia Copper Mines

Glencore International AG has notified Zambian authorities it plans to halt operations at the Mufulira copper mine and put its Nkana mine under maintenance, the country's mines minister said on Friday.

"Glencore has notified the government that it wants to cease operations of Mufulira copper mine due to high costs of production. They have also said they want to place assets of Nkana mine under care and maintenance," Mines Minister Maxwell Mwale said on state television.

Mwale said the Swiss firm, which operates the Nkana and Mufulira mines as a joint venture with Canada's First Quantum Minerals, had said it would only resume operations at the mines once copper prices reached around $5,500 per tonne.

"The company alleges it has been making losses due to the global crisis, but as government we feel there is a way to keep these units running," Mwale said but he gave no further details.

The plans to shut the Mufulira underground mine come barely a few months after Luanshya Copper Mines suspended operations of its Baluba copper mine and the Chambishi Metals Plc, Zambia's largest copper producer, due to the global financial crisis.

Mwale said the government would seek to talk with management of Mopani Copper Mines (MCM), the unit that operates the mines on behalf of Glencore and First Quantum.

Zambia's copper producers have recently complained of high production costs at most units in the mineral-rich southern African country, following low global demand for metals.

More than 3,000 miners have been retrenched at several mines in the last three months, sparking calls from unions for the government to take over the units and run them until new buyers are found to avert further job losses.

Copper mining is Zambia's economic lifeblood and the mines are a major employer and also earn the country about 63% of its foreign exchange.




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