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Jan 22, 2009 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) — DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

Zambia‘s largest cobalt producer, Luanshya Copper Mines has started paying benefits to more than 1,300 workers it laid off last month following the suspension of mining operations, a union official told Dow Jones Newswires Thursday.

 

Sikufela Mundia, the president of National Union of Miners and Allied Workers, said management started paying the benefits Wednesday in line with Zambian labor laws.

“The process is expected to be completed in a few weeks,” he said.

 

Luanshya Copper Mines halted operations at its Baluba Copper Mine and Chambishi Metals PLC in December citing low metal prices. The company has since laid off around 1,300 workers, but 370 workers have been maintained at Baluba and Chambishi smelter which are currently under care and maintenance.

 

According to a company official, mining operations will resume as soon as global metal prices become favorable. Analysts say the closure is expected to slash Zambia’s cobalt output by more than 40% this year. Early last year, the company announced that it would increase annual cobalt output to 3,200 tons. Luanshya produced around 20,000 metric tons of copper in 2008.

 

Mines Minister Maxwell Mwale told state media Wednesday that the company would resume operations with or without the intervention of its current owners.

 

Luanshya Copper Mines is a joint venture between Swiss-based International Mineral Resources and Bein Stein Group Resources of Israel.

 

By Nicholas Bariyo, contributing to Dow Jones Newswires; +256-75-2624615; bariyonic@yahoo.co.uk

 

Dow Jones Newswires

Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc

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