Mining giant Glencore shut its Zambia copper mine on Wednesday for three months following a slump in the market and disruption caused by coronavirus, raising the ire of the government and unions.
Glencore operates Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) in the towns of Mufulira and Kitwe in Zambia's Copperbelt.
"We have shut down the operations at both Mufulira and Kitwe," a company source told AFP. "Things are tough for our continued operations because of what was highlighted".
In a statement on Tuesday Glencore had said that further to the "impacts of a rapid decline in the copper price, Mopani's situation has been further impacted by the critical disruptions to international mobility, transportation and supply chains arising from Covid-19".
The decision will throw 11,000 employees out of work for three months.
Mines Minister Richard Musukwa said the falling copper prices and the impact of coronavirus on the mining industry did were unjustified grounds for shuttering the mines.
"The government rejects this attempt," said the minister.
"Where there is justification we will allow the laying off of people but not in this situation, where we clearly have Mopani fishing for reasons to lay people off," Musukwa said on state-run Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation radio.
The Mine Workers' Union of Zambia is also up in arms.
MCM "should not put the mine on care and maintenance, as over 11,000 miners will be without jobs," MUZ chief George Mumba told AFP.