Mar 26, 2011 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) -- At least 600 workers at Zambia's Chinese-owned Chambishi Copper Smelter ended their strike action over a wage dispute to allow the resumption of labor talks, a union officials told Dow Jones Newswires on Saturday.
The workers agreed to end the strike action to allow the resumption of talks over a labor dispute, Sikufela Mundia, the President of the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers said by telephone from Kitwe, on the Copperbelt provinces.
"Labor talks with management will resume on Monday, the workers have agreed to end the strike," he said, adding that the negotiations would not resume while workers were still on strike.
The 150,000 tons-a-year smelter, which had halted output Thursday, is now expected to resume operations, Mundia said.
The workers went on strike after rejecting a 12% pay rise offered by management last week, demanding a 50% pay increment.
It was feared that a lengthy closure of the smelter was likely to hurt operations of several mining companies who treat their concentrates from the plant. Those companies include Toronto-listed Equinox Minerals Ltd.(EQN.T), which owns Lumwana Copper Mines in Zambia's North Western province; First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (FM.T), owners of Kansanshi Copper Mines; South Africa-based Metores Ltd. (MTX.JO), owners of Chibuluma Copper Mines; and NCFA Mining's Chambishi Copper Mines.
Last month, China Nonferrous Metals Co.(8306.HK), owners of the plant, announced that it had started a $250 million expansion program aimed at doubling copper output to 300,000 tons a year next year.
Spurred by a global price rally, investments in Zambia's copper mining continue to soar, last year, output grew 17% on year to reach a historic record of around 820,000 tons.
Zambia's annual copper production is poised to hit 2 million tons in the next five years.