Mopani resumes operations following investigation into worker deaths

JP Casey 10 April 2019 (Last Updated July 26th, 2019 10:27)

Mopani Copper Mines has announced the resumption of operations at two of its projects following an investigation into the deaths of five workers earlier this year.

Mopani resumes operations following investigation into worker deaths
Glencore’s Mutanda Copper mine in the DRC. Credit: Glencore

Mopani Copper Mines has announced the resumption of operations at two of its projects following an investigation into the deaths of five workers earlier this year.

The Zambian company, a Glencore subsidiary, suspended operations at its Mindola North Shaft when three workers died in an underground fire, while work ceased at its South Ore Body Shaft following a separate accident that killed two people. Mopani suspended all underground operations at the projects and sent its workers on a safety training course to improve their understanding of best safety practices.

“All employees have taken supervisory and safety training sessions as well as signed commitment letters to undertake safe work,” said Mopani public relations manager Nebert Mulenga.

“It is our hope that employees have benefitted from the supervisory and training sessions, which reinforced, among other things, the duty and right of each and every employee to report unsafe practices and refuse to undertake any assignment deemed unsafe.”

Glencore, which is the majority owner of Carlisa Investments, a separate company that directly owns Mopani, reported a slight downturn in safety performance in its 2018 annual report, with a total recordable injury rate of 3.18 injuries per million hours worked, an increase over the 2017 total of 3.08 injuries. The number of fatalities also increased over this period, from nine to 13.

Mopani has received significant investment from Glencore, with the mining company investing over $1.1bn into the Zambian firm between 2016 and 2018, to develop projects such as the Mindola shaft.

Glencore also reported impairments across all of its operations of $1.6bn, half of which could be attributed to the Mopani projects. Glencore claimed that changes to Zambian tax laws undermined the financial performance of Zambian projects, changes which have devalued the Mopani operations by almost as much as Glencore invested into the projects, and left the mines on unstable financial footing. Glencore predicts that should copper, cobalt and acid prices fall by 10%, the Mopani projects would lose a further $390m in value, and should operating costs rise by just 5%, their value would fall by a further $165m.

“Net income before significant items rose 5% to $5.8bn, while significant items reduced net profit attributable to equity holders to $3.4bn, mainly due to non-cash impairments of $1.6bn, primarily reflecting impairments of the carrying values of our Mutanda and Mopani assets,” said CEO Ivan Glasenberg in his review of the annual report.