Energy crisis indaba called

Contradictory statements over load shedding involving the mining industry will be the subject of a crisis meeting to be held today.

While Minister of Energy Christopher Yaluma has assured the mining industry against unilateral load shedding by Zesco, operations of major mining companies have been crippled by reduced electricity supply, thereby threatening jobs.

The Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) which controls most supply to the mines has been instructed to hold a meeting with mining firms, Zesco and all major players in the industry to address the problem which threatens the economy.

Mr. Yaluma has warned that disruption of power to the Mine smelters would have a huge impact on productivity levels in the sector and it was for this reason that Government would not allow any reduction in power supply to the mines without dialogue with concerned parties.

He said there had been proposal’s to reduce power to the mines in view of the current power deficit, but that this should not be done without consultations with the mines.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday Minister Yaluma  reiterated that mines would continue receiving their electricity allocations because they occupied a critical status in the economy of the country.

Zambia Chamber of Mines president Jackson Sikamo told the Daily Nation yesterday that the mining firms would be meeting with the CEC today at 14:00 hrs to chat the way forward over Zesco power load shedding which has affected the mining industry in the country.

“There will be a meeting tomorrow (today) between the mining firms and the CEC to discuss measures that would help mitigate the impact of load shedding on the mines on the Copperbelt,” Mr. Sikamo said.

Reuters has  reporteds that the Zambia Chamber of Mines has indicated that power cuts in North-Western Province, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, have affected production at mines run by First Quantum Minerals and Barrick Gold as Zesco Ltd was limiting power it supplied to customers, including mining companies, after water levels at its hydro-electric plants dropped due to a drought.

Reuters quoted Mr. Sikamo as saying that Zesco reduced its power supply to Lumwana and First Quantum Minerals over the weekend.

“Power was reduced to both First Quantum Minerals and Lumwana over the weekend,” Mr. Sikamo was quoted as saying.

First Quantum is said to have indicated that its Kansanshi mine, smelter and its green-field Sentinel project were running at reduced capacities though it was unable to provide estimates on how long the power supply reduction would last or its impact on production.

“Various options to alleviate the effect on production are being evaluated,” the company said in a statement released on Monday.

First Quantum’s Zambian smelter, which ramped up in February, is expected to produce over 300,000 tonnes of copper metal from around 1.2 million tonnes of concentrate a year, when it reaches full operation Zesco has hired independent power producers to procure more electricity by the end of 2015, First Quantum said.