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Zambia’s Copper Boom: New Mine to Boost Economy and Jobs

A joint venture between FQM and Mimosa Resources to develop a new copper mine in Zambia’s central province of Mkushi.

by Motoni Olodun

Zambia, Africa’s top copper producer, is set to welcome a new mine that will boost its economy and create thousands of jobs. The Fishtie copper project, located in the central province of Mkushi, is a joint venture between Canadian mining giant First Quantum Minerals (FQM) and local company Mimosa Resources.

The two partners have signed a revised development agreement that will fast-track the construction of the mine, which is expected to start production in 2026 and ramp up to a maximum output of 30,000 tonnes of copper per year by the end of the decade. The project will also produce cobalt, a critical metal for the electric vehicle industry.

The Fishtie project is significant as it is the first new copper discovery in Zambia that has proceeded to a mining license in over a decade. It also represents a transfer of skills and expertise from FQM to Mimosa, which will lead the fundraising initiatives to raise the $200 million required for the development of the project. Mimosa will also increase its stake in the project from 37.5% to 75% through the completion of a feasibility study and the securing of the necessary financing.

FQM country manager Dr Godwin Beene said the company was determined to develop the resource now that the investment climate in Zambia had improved. He said FQM had committed a deep level of organizational support to Mimosa so that they could successfully develop and run Fishtie, and provide inspiration to other emerging Zambian miners.

Mimosa chairperson Jordan Soko said the revised development agreement represented a potentially significant transfer of skills and know-how from a major mining multinational to an emerging Zambian company. He said that in the search for a genuine ‘social license to operate’, Zambians needed to play a leading role in the country’s future mining development.

The Fishtie project is part of FQM’s plan to invest more than $4 billion in new mines and expansion projects in Zambia in the next two to three years. The company also operates the Kansanshi mine, the largest copper mine in Africa, and the Trident project, which comprises the Sentinel copper mine and the Enterprise nickel mine.

Zambia’s mining sector has been recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a decline in production and exports in 2020. According to the Zambia Chamber of Mines, the sector recorded a 35.6% increase in copper production in the first half of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. The sector also contributed 77.4% of the country’s total export earnings in the first quarter of 2021.

Zambia’s new government, led by President Hakainde Hichilema, has pledged to provide tax breaks and incentives to the mining sector as part of its 2022 budget. The government also aims to diversify the economy away from over-reliance on copper and promote other minerals such as gold, manganese, and emeralds.

The Fishtie project is expected to bring positive social and environmental benefits to the local communities and the country at large. The project will create direct and indirect jobs, support local suppliers and contractors, and contribute to infrastructure development and social services. The project will also adhere to the highest standards of environmental management and protection, and implement measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The Fishtie project is a testament to the potential and resilience of Zambia’s mining industry, which has been a cornerstone of the country’s development for over a century. As copper prices remain high and demand for green metals grows, Zambia is poised to reap the rewards of its rich mineral endowment and cement its position as a global mining leader.

Source: Mining Weekly


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