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Layoffs intensify at mining contractors

2020-04-09  Edgar Brandt

Layoffs intensify at mining contractors
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Edgar Brandt

The care and maintenance announcement by the Skorpion Zinc mine and refinery in southern Namibia, which will inevitably affect a total of about 1 500 employees, has started to trickle down to the mine’s contractors who have confirmed retrenchments. 
Recently, two of Skorpion mine’s contractors, Basil Read and Bulk Mining Explosives (BME) confirmed retrenchments, citing a reduction of business as the main reason.
Skorpion Zinc mine will be going into care and maintenance during this month. This care and maintenance period overlaps with the Covid-19 lockdown during which production ramp down at the mine and refinery will progressively commence. Care and maintenance is a term used in the mining industry to describe processes and conditions when a mine is closed but where

 there is potential to recommence operations at a later date. During a care and maintenance phase, production is stopped but the site is managed to ensure it remains in a safe and stable condition.
However, economists have called for fiscal and monetary interventions by government that help protect investments and more importantly, jobs.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the labour ministry, mining contractor Basil Read Mining stated that the contracts of 332 fixed-term employees will be terminated on 30 April 2020 “due to effluxion of time”. “It is not the company’s intention to offer new contracts of employment to all employees terminated as our revised compliment does not cater for all those being terminated. It is with sadness to inform you that 252 employees will not be offered new contracts,” read the letter.
In addition, in a letter to the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN), BME gave notice of the anticipated retrenchment “due to a reduction of the business due to economic reasons”. According to BME’s country manager, Charl Vorster, the company has already suffered a 30% drop in business and the anticipated retrenchments will affect 14 of its employees. Vorster noted that; “People are our greatest asset.” He stressed that it will be difficult to resume normal production once business starts to pick up again.
At a recent media briefing, MUN’s southern region vice chairperson Petersen Kambinda said the retrenchments at the Skorpion mine are “ill-conceived and barbaric” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and called on President Hage Geingob to urgently intervene. Kambinda charged that the job losses could be averted if the Skorpion mine terminated a mining outsourcing agreement with mining subcontractor Basil Read.
Skorpion Zinc spokesperson Nora Ndopu, in a recent statement said the parent company, Vedanta Zinc International, remains focussed on prioritising growth projects to create a sustainable life for Skorpion and to shorten the care and maintenance gap.
She continued that accelerated focus will now be on a Refinery Conversion Project to enable co-treatment of both sulphide and oxide ore, which was originally announced in 2014. - 

2020-04-09  Edgar Brandt

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