Mar 24, 2010 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) --Zambia's largest copper miner, Konkola Copper Mines, said Wednesday that in order to end an over reliance on expatriate workers it has started implementing manpower development programs aimed at improving the skills of local miners.
A company spokesman said the programs include an exchange initiative where employees of London-listed Vedanta Resources PLC (VED.LN), owners of KCM, do long-term attachments to develop their skills.
"Zambia has faced a serious shortage of mining-related skills as it rebounds from the lean years of the 1990s. Most of its best mining people have long retired or moved abroad when the mining industry slumped," the spokesman said, adding that with global copper prices rebounding, the need for experts in the country has become even more desperate.
Zambia is Africa's top copper producer.
KCM employs 20,000 workers and is currently implementing expansion projects aimed at boosting annual copper output to 500,000 metric tons effective next year.
The company is also rehabilitating its Kitwe Trades School, once a major producer of mining artisans and craftsmen to international standards, with the help of international consultants from India.
KCM has also launched an $18 million scholarship program aimed at filling professional gaps in Zambia's mining industry.
KCM further said that some expansion projects at the mine, like the 300,000 tons-a-year Nchanga Copper Smelter and the 6 million-tons-of-ore a year concentrator, have come with new technology which requires expertise to run them, necessitating the training of more people.
Zambia's miners unions have in the past complained of the big salary disparities between local miners and expatriates. In November last year KCM miners rioted during a wage strike and attacked Chinese and Indian expatriates working with company.