Tripling copper production would make Zambia the world's second biggest producer © Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images
Tripling copper production would make Zambia the world's second biggest producer © Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

How Zambia plans to become a global copper powerhouse

19 May 2022

Zambia intends to more than triple copper production as demand for the metal soars in global markets.

President Hakainde Hichilema declared Africa’s second-biggest copper producer “open for business” at the Mining Indaba industry event in Cape Town, South Africa.

At the same event, a leading mining company announced a $1.35bn investment in Zambia and praised the government’s efforts to reform the country’s mining sector.

“We are determined to respond to the high demand for copper and have an audacious goal to take its annual production levels from the current 830,000 to 3m tonnes in the next 10 years,” Hichilema said.

“This is indeed ambitious, but we are confident we can achieve it.”

Based on current figures, achieving this would make Zambia the world’s second-biggest copper producer behind Chile, which produced an estimated 5.6m tonnes in 2021.

Second largest producer Peru mined 2.2m tonnes in the same year. China is the third largest producer.

Demand for green technologies has seen copper prices rise 125% since March 2020.

Zambia’s operating environment, willingness to work with investors and mining entities, and abundant mineral base would help make its goal a reality, Hichilema said.

He added Zambia was building strategic partnerships, citing a recent memorandum of understanding signed with the Democratic Republic of Congo to develop value chains in the electric battery and clean energy sector.

“In addition to copper, we are determined to ensure increased production of cobalt and nickel, which are key to the green energy transition and important elements in the production of electric vehicles,” the president said.

“We are promoting exploration and exploitation of tin, lithium, graphite, rare earth minerals, among others, to contribute to the success of the energy transition.”

Canadian Copper miner First Quantum Minerals used the event to announce a $1.35bn investment in Zambia in two new projects – the largest investment in a decade.

The investments will expand production at the Kansanshi S3 copper mines and will also fund the Enterprise Nickel project.

First Quantum CEO Tristan Pascall hailed the government’s efforts to reform the mining sector, attract investment and increase Zambia’s copper production.

“The approval of the projects reflects First Quantum’s increased confidence in the investment climate in Zambia,” said Pascall.

He said the government had improved the ease of doing business in Zambia in areas such as expediting immigration procedures in exchange for commitments for local employment levels.

First Quantum also praised competitive pricing of power transmission and power procurement from independent sources, as well as measures to ensure the ease of importing and exporting goods in Zambia.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa recognised the country needed to improve its ease of doing business in a speech to Indaba attendees.

He expressed “grave concern” that South Africa has fallen into the bottom 10 of the Fraser Institute’s Investment Attractiveness Index rankings – its worst-ever position in the rankings.

“This ranking underlines the fundamental reality that South Africa needs to move with greater purpose and urgency to remove the various impediments to the growth and development of the industry,” he said.

Required changes include improving railways and ports and ensuring a secure and reliable supply of affordable electricity, he said.

But Ramaphosa added: “In South Africa, mining registered growth of 11.8% in 2021, the highest across all industries. Last year, the sector recovered production to almost pre-Covid levels.”

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