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Zambia Set to Double Copper Production by 2026

Investments Ignite Surge in Africa’s Copper Powerhouse

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

Zambia, Africa’s second-largest copper producer, is on the brink of a significant expansion in its copper output, potentially reaching 1 million tons by 2026. This anticipated increase comes as a beacon of hope for the country’s economic growth, which heavily relies on copper production. Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane, in a statement on Friday, outlined the optimistic forecast, attributing the potential surge to investments aimed at expanding production capabilities at several key mines.

Despite its pivotal role in the nation’s economy, Zambia’s copper production has seen a downward trend, with a notable dip to 698,000 tons in 2023 from 763,000 tons the year before, as reported by the Zambia Chamber of Mines. This decline has occurred even amidst ambitious government targets to escalate output to about 3 million tons within the next decade.

The expected revival in production is partly attributed to new developments at Mopani Copper Mines, which recently welcomed a new investor, and Konkola Copper Mines (KCM). The latter has seen a resurgence after the resolution of a longstanding ownership dispute with Vedanta Resources, an Indian mining conglomerate. “The two mining giants (Mopani and KCM) were out of the equation, now they are back,” Musokotwane stated during an interview with Radio Phoenix, a Lusaka-based radio station.

Further contributions to the projected increase in copper production include ongoing expansion efforts at First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi mine. Similarly, Barrick Gold, a Canadian mining giant, disclosed last year its plan to invest approximately $2 billion to enhance output at its Lumwana mine in Zambia, targeting about 240,000 tons of copper by 2028.

Moreover, the International Resources Holding (IRH) from the United Arab Emirates has committed to investing $1.1 billion to expand operations at Mopani mines, having acquired a 51% stake in the copper assets formerly owned by Glencore. This investment signifies a substantial commitment to Zambia’s mining sector and its potential for growth.

Zambia also anticipates rejuvenated mining activities at KCM, following a nearly paralytic state due to a protracted ownership battle with Vedanta. The dispute, which began in 2019 when the government attempted to take over the assets, has since been resolved, paving the way for renewed investment and expansion.

“So by the end of 2025 to 2026, we will be producing more than a million tons of copper,” Musokotwane confidently predicted. This projection marks a significant turnaround for Zambia’s copper industry, suggesting a future where the country not only stabilizes its copper production but also significantly increases its output, thereby securing its position as a leading copper producer on the African continent and bolstering its economic prospects.

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