Peak production of copper occurred in 1969, when 720 000 t of copper was produced, making Zambia the world’s 4th largest copper producer. However, production has declined drastically since the mid 70’s due to low copper prices and lack of investment. Zambia is currently the world’s 11th largest copper producer. Despite this decline, copper and cobalt mining still contributes 10% of Zambia’s GDP, representing 80% of export earnings. Zambia produced 368,963 t copper in 2003 compared to 336,385 t in 2002. Cobalt production totalled 6,790 t in 2003 compared to 6,303 t in 2002.

Zambia is the world’s largest cobalt producer, supplying 20% of the world’s cobalt. As the country has no downstream industry, the copper is exported as copper bars to the USA, Japan, France, Malaysia, India, UK, Belgium, Thailand, Italy and Indonesia.

The parastatal Zambian Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) had been attempting to privatise its operations, a process that has taken more than seven years to conclude. By the end of 2000, most of ZCCM’s assets had been privatised by a variety of international companies, with Anglo American taking the bulk.However, in early 2002, Anglo American decided to discontinue the funding of its investment in KCM. This includes the development of the massive Konkola Deeps Project, where Anglo American could not raise funding nor justify the development during historically low copper prices. The Zambian government has had a hard time trying to find a suitable strategic equity partner to replace Anglo American as the major technical shareholder in Konkola Copper Mines plc.

Anglo American had finalised agreements with ZCCM in the late 1990’s, where it acquired the assets of the Konkola Division, Nchanga division (including refractory stockpile ore from Chingola), the Nampundwe pyrite mine and an option to acquire the smelting and refining divisions of the Nkana division. The deal was finalised through Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of Zambia Copper Investments, ZCI in which Anglo American had a 27 % stake. ZCCM retained a 20% interest in the operation ontop off cash payments that totalled US$90 million. KCM had also committed $523-million to develop the Konkola Deep project, which has reserves estimated at 100 Mt grading at 4.33% copper.

KCM had a reported production of 187,500 t of copper from its tailings leach, open-pit and underground mining operations. Cathode production was constrained by a one-month shutdown of the company’s Nkana smelter, which contributed to a significant shortage of acid feeding the Nchanga tailings leach plant. The life of the Nchanga open pit has been extended by at least four years, and the pit is currently being extended to the northeast. In August 2004, Vedanta Resources plc announced the completion of a formal agreement to buy a controlling stake in KCM. In November the company completed the acquisition of a 51% controlling stake in KCM for a total cash consideration of US$48.2 million.

Mopani Copper Mines Plc (Mopani) is a joint venture company comprising Glencore International AG (73.1%), First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (16.9%) and Zambian Consolidated Copper Mines Limited (10%). Mopani operates the Mufulira mine, smelter and copper refinery and the Nkana mine and cobalt plant. MCM produced 134,800 t of copper and 2,040 t of cobalt in 2003. MCM is investing in a number of oxide copper projects at several of its properties, including an in-situ leaching project at Mufulira and heap leaching at Nkana, and has achieved significant production increases at its underground mining operations in Kitwe and Mufulira. Copper production from internal sources was supplemented by the purchase of some 18,000 t of copper in high- grade oxide concentrate bought from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The company aims to rebuild the Mufulira smelter during 2004 and 2005, and also plans to add a new gas collection facility and acid plant at a total cost of US$95 million.

Chibuluma Mines produced 5,300 t of copper in 2003 compared to 7,373 t in 2002. Cobalt produced amounted to 77 t in 2002. All the ore from Chibuluma West was trucked to the Chibuluma South concentrator. Concentrates were smelted at the group’s O’Okiep smelter in South Africa for part of the year, and at MCM’s Mufulira smelter. The Chibuluma West mine hoisted 258,000 t of ore at a grade of 2.5% total copper and 0.1% cobalt and will cease operations in 2004.

The Chambishi underground mine is owned by NFC Africa, a subsidiary of China Non-ferrous Metals Corp, produced some 8,500 t of copper in concentrate 2003. Most of the concentrates produced to date have been treated outside Zambia.

In 2003 First Quantum Minerals (FQM) completed the expansion of the Bwana Mkubwa leach SX-EW plant which produced 29,513 t of copper compared to 11,878 t in 2002. Bwana Mkubwa is one of Zambia’s lowest cost producers. All the ore treated at Bwana Mkubwa came from the Lonshi open pit across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Lonshi pit has sufficient resources to support current levels of production for the next 6-7 years. First Quantum also owns the Kansanshi project and is located in the North Western Province of Zambia, approximately 15 kilometres north of the town of Solwezi and 16 kilometres south of the Democratic Republic of Congo border. The Kansanshi project will be developed in two phases. Phase One development (years 1-16) will focus on open pit mining and processing of shallow oxide and mixed ores, although significant quantities of primary sulphide ore will also be treated. Measured and indicated mineral resources at a 0.5% copper cut-off total 302 million tonnes at 1.17% copper and 0.17 grams per tonne gold, while Phase One proven and probable mining reserves are 142 million tonnes grading 1.43% copper and 0.22 grams per tonne gold. During the sixteen year, Phase One mine life, Kansanshi will produce 1.6 million tonnes of copper, approximately 44% as copper cathode and 56% as copper in concentrate. In June 2004 FQM reported that 2004, the project was approximately 79% complete with construction being 59% complete. $90.4 million of direct capital costs of the process plant has been committed.

Participating Organisations

African Rainbow Minerals

Avmin have an interest in the Chambishi cobalt and acid plants and Nkana slag dumps

First Quantum Minerals Ltd

First Quantum has interests in the Mufulira and Nkana Mines and is sole owner and operator of the Bwana Mkubwa copper mine.

Konkola Copper Mines

Metorex Ltd

Through its 85% interest in Chibuluma Mins plc, Metorex operates the Chibuluma South and West mines.

Roan Antelope Mining Corporation

Zambia Copper Investments Ltd

Shaun Bakamoso

Greetings. I'm Shaun Bakamoso, and I'm thrilled to be your guide through the dynamic world of business news in South Africa here at mbendi.co.za. With a passion for staying informed and a keen interest in the ever-evolving landscape of business, I've dedicated myself to providing you with timely, insightful, and comprehensive coverage of the latest developments impacting the South African economy. bakamoso@gmail.com / Instagram