A bird flies by the Vedanta office building in Mumbai in this file picture.
Johannesburg – Vedanta Resources said it may be forced to close its Skorpion zinc mine in Namibia if a plan to extend operations beyond this year is blocked because of a labour dispute.

Vedanta wants to employ JSE-listed Basil Read to develop the Pit 112 project at the mine, which will enable production to continue, the company said.

The contract would mean that 278 of the mine’s employees would lose their jobs, the company said. The plan is opposed by the Mineworkers' Union of Namibia, which wants Skorpion to hire the equipment needed for the project and keep and hire its own staff rather than outsourcing to Basil Read, Ebben Zarondo, the union’s general secretary, said on Thursday.

Vedanta acquired Skorpion in 2010 when it purchased zinc assets from Anglo American.

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The mine, operating since 2003, was scheduled to close in 2015, but Vedanta extended its life to this year after finding more metal.

“A failure to proceed with the new plan will mean the closure of the mine and the loss of 1 500 jobs from the middle of 2017,” Vedanta said. Skorpion produced just 17000 tons of refined zinc in the quarter to December 31 due to refinery problems.

The current expansion “must begin immediately” for the mine’s refinery operations to be sustained, Vedanta said.