Oct 19, 2011 (Dow Jones) --Zambia's Chinese-owned Chambishi Copper Smelter has resumed partial copper production after some workers started reporting for duty Tuesday following fruitful talks with management, a union official told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday.
At least half of the company's 500 workers reported for work Tuesday following talks between union representatives and management, mediated by government, Sikufela Mundia, the President of the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers said.
"Things have started normalizing, and workers started reporting yesterday (Tuesday)" he said.
According to Mundia, union representatives will start labor talks with management next week over the pay dispute.
The 150,000 metric-tons-a-year copper smelter halted output Wednesday last week, after workers went on strike, following a series of other strikes at Chinese-owned copper projects in the country over a pay dispute.
Zambia's labor ministry convened urgent talks at the plant Monday to end the impasse. The plant treats copper concentrates from Chambishi Copper Mine as well as from Barrick Gold Corp.'s (ABX) Lumwana Copper Mines, in the North Western province.
Workers at the smelter want their salaries increased to put them on a par with their counterparts at other smelters in the country, such as Vedanta Resources PLC's (VED.LN) Nchanga Smelter and Glencore International AG's (GLEN.LN) Mufulira Smelter.
A spate of workers strikes have hit Zambia's copper mining sector since last month's election of Michael Sata as president of Africa's top copper producer. Sata, a strong critic of Chinese investments in the country, campaigned on populist manifesto, promising to improve miners conditions and hike mine taxes.
Chambishi Copper Smelter is a joint venture between China Nonferrous Metals Co. (8306.HK) and the Yunnan Copper Group (000878.SZ). The two companies are implementing expansions at the smelter to increase its annual capacity to 250,000 tons of copper.