Zambia says Glencore declares "force majeure" to shut copper mines, will block move
By Chris Mfula
LUSAKA, April 7 (Reuters) - Zambia said on Tuesday that Glencore has declared "force majeure" and will shut its copper mines in the country, adding that the government would block the move which would result in 11,000 people losing their jobs.
Mines Minister Richard Musukwa said Glencore plans to put its Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) operations under "care and maintenance" for three months from Tuesday as the global coronavirus outbreak weighs on copper prices and restricts the movement of key staff.
"The Government of the Republic of Zambia rejects this attempt by Mopani to put the mines in Kitwe and Mufulira on care and maintenance because it does not conform with the law," Musukwa said in a written statement.
A Glencore spokesman had no immediate comment on whether the company had taken such a step.
Triggering a force majeure clause in contracts allows certain terms of an otherwise legally binding agreement to be ignored because of unavoidable circumstances.
"The Ministry is not aware of any event that has happened that is beyond the reasonable control of MCM and which makes mining impossible," said Musukwa.
He also said Glencore did not provide the Zambian government with sufficient notice of the closure which will impact jobs.
(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana and Helen Reid; editing by Jason Neely, Kirsten Donovan)