Zambia prevented the head of Glencore Plc’s local unit from leaving the country after police intercepted him at the airport, further intensifying a dispute over the commodity trader’s move to halt unprofitable copper operations.
Nathan Bullock, the chief executive officer of Mopani Copper Mines, was stopped at the airport in Lusaka, state-owned ZNBC TV reported, citing Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo. The minister said Bullock was detained on suspicion that he was fleeing the country without informing the government.
Glencore said the CEO was heading back to his home in Australia to spend time with his family. He was detained in connection with the company’s decision to place its mines on care and maintenance last week and has since been released, the company said in a statement.
Glencore said last week it needs to close shafts at Mopani due to falling metal prices, disrupted logistics and travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has described the closure as illegal and on Tuesday escalated the dispute by threatening to strip Glencore of its mining license.
“Glencore is committed to engaging in a constructive dialog with the Zambian authorities,” the company said on Wednesday.