(Bloomberg) -- Zambian President Edgar Lungu threatened to “divorce” the local copper units of Vedanta Resources Plc and Glencore Plc after the companies said they’d curb operations in the southern African nation.

“I want to make it very clear that I have come here to sanction, if it’s the will of the Zambian people, that we divorce these mines,” he said in a speech broadcast live on Facebook as the crowd responded with cheers. “My position is that enough is enough. The attorney general is here, the lawyers are here. They will guide us how to proceed with this divorce.”

The threat marks an escalation in tensions between the mining industry in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer and the government, following an increase in royalties and plans to introduces new taxes.

Lungu visited Copperbelt province on Friday to meet with mine-labor unions and industry lobby group the Chamber of Mines, after an announcement by Glencore’s Mopani Copper Mines last week that it plans to shut two shafts and fire hundreds of workers. Any further escalation in tensions could weaken the kwacha, which is already the world’s second-worst performing currency against the dollar this year, having fallen 14.7%.

To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Hill in Maputo at mhill58@bloomberg.net;Taonga Clifford Mitimingi in Lusaka at tmitimingi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net, Paul Richardson, Gordon Bell

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