Zambia Approves New $823m Copper Plant Project

Zambian copper
Copper is Zambia’s number one export

Zambia has given the go-ahead for development and operation of the South East Ore Body Project, set to up the country’s copper production by 60,000 tonnes a year and create up to 6,000 new jobs. The Project – which is planned to house a processing plant and four production, service and ventilation shafts –  is estimated to cost about $832 million to build.

The Project came to the attention of the China Nonferrous Mining Corp earlier this year, which will be constructing and operating the copper plant through its sub-unit NFC Africa Mining Plc.  However, while fulfilling a pivotal state requirement upon with the whole Project hinges, NFC has been delayed in its start-up as it waited on the result of its application for state approval of the project to Zambia’s Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA).

ZEMA has now given its stamp-of-approval to the project, which is expected to see a quick start in construction, with work being billed to begin before the end of this year

Located in the north-western part of Zambia, in the Chambishi area roughly 400 km from Lusaka, the documentation submitted to ZEMA estimates that the South East Ore Body Project holds copper resources of over 76 million tonnes, with a 2.18 percent average grading.

It has also been suggested that the construction of the operation alone will create 1,000 new jobs in the region, with the plant requiring at least a further 5,000 new employees when it steps into the copper production phase.  As such, the plant has been heralded as a significant economic benefit for the Chambishi region.

This new Project comes at a time when Zambians have been voicing concerns as to the country’s reliance on the copper industry, which for the past sixty years – since nationalisation of the country’s mines – has been a focal point of Zambia’s economy.  Zambia is ranked as the seventh largest copper producer in the world, although over the past decade the country has seen a significant slowing in its copper outputs largely due to a global drop in copper prices.

The copper production industry has seen a turn-around over the past three years, slowly picking up pace; but there have nonetheless been calls to avoid the kind of reliance that slowed the country’s economy in the 1990s, with Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo recently calling for an economic refocus to concentrate on enhancing the Zambian tourism sector as opposed to returning to a fixation on copper mining.