Weatherly retrenches 220 workers due to low copper prices

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Windhoek

The Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) has requested mining companies to keep all their staff members updated on the fluctuation of commodity prices, particularly when these price changes have a direct impact on the livelihood of employees.

The MUN’s request follows Weatherly Mining’s announcement yesterday that it will retrench 220 employees from its Otjihase and Matchless mines due to declining global copper prices.

“If commodity prices go up and the company makes more profit, then they do not share this information with us. There must be open communication lines between the company and workers, because perhaps workers can be convinced to take a pay-cut until these prices rebound,” said a concerned MUN Secretary General, Job Muniaro.
“It’s not a fair practice. Companies must make declining commodity prices the workers problem too as it affects them directly,” added Muniaro.

Weatherly Mining Namibia yesterday announced the conversion of the Otjihase and Matchless mines, also known as Central Operations, to project development status in order to prepare for future production expansion, while focusing on the ramp-up of production at Tschudi mine. Weatherly said the two mines are currently not commercially viable due to a continuing decline in global copper prices.

“Due to 2015 copper prices reaching the lowest levels in six years, copper production at Central Operations is no longer commercially viable. Though the copper price is outside our control, the measures we are taking are intended to ensure a probative long-term future for the combined business, including Tschudi, Otjihase and Matchless,” said Weaterly’s Chief Executive Officer, Craig Thomas.

He said Weatherly would engage all relevant authorities and the wider Namibian mining sector to provide assistance and to find alternative employment for affected workers.

Weatherly will now engage a small team to maintain the two affected mines, including their processing plant infrastructure, to be ready to commence with operations when conditions improve. In addition, the project development plan will include drilling work to improve the definition of remaining copper ore resources, as well as work to create additional access tunnels into new areas planned for future underground mining.

“The objective of this continued project development is to enable a rapid resumption of production when copper prices improve and also to allow future production to deliver larger tonnages of copper at lower costs than this achieved over the last five years of operation. This, in turn, is expected to allow the mines to generate acceptable profits in times of higher copper prices and to be able to survive future periods of low copper prices,” read a statement from Weatherly.

Meanwhile, operations at Weatherly’s new Tschudi copper mine in northern Namibia have been successfully ramped up this year. The company said these operations will be unaffected by the changes at Central Operations. Following the first copper production in February this year Tschudi continues to increase production volumes and is expected to achieve 17 000 tonnes of refined copper cathode per annum by the December 2015 quarter.

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