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Power affects FQM copper production in Zambia

Insufficient power at First Quantum Minerals (FQM) mine in the North-Western Province of Zambia, a mineral-rich Southern African country has resulted in reduced copper production, according to sources Thursday.

Dependent upon diesel-driven power plants which supply almost 200MW of electricity to the FQM mining operation at Kalumbila, almost 120 kilometers west of Solwezi the provincial capital needs an extra 30 percent for it to operate at full capacity.

The mine needs to tap power from the national grid of the state-run Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) after FQM built a 600 kilometer power line from Southern Province through Central Province of that country. It is not yet known when the public utility firm will connect the mine.

At the moment from the time operations at the mine started in September 2015 copper production has been pegged at 150,000 metric tons per year and this is expected to reach 300,000 mt/y as from 2017. Both plated copper and concentrates production is expected to increase further once electricity from the national grid is accessed.

Kalumbila mine as it is known took FQM five years to put together as part of its US$2.1 billion Sentinel investment to that country’s mining sector. The mining company has since installed high cost machinery using one of the most sophisticated technologies in the world for the extraction of low grade concentrates with a 0.5% copper content.

However Sentinel’s contribution to overall copper production in that mineral-rich rural province is quite significant. At 500,000 mt/y North-Western Province is currently the largest copper producer accounting for 70% of the 711,000 mt/y produced in the entire country. Zambia stands as the second largest copper producer in the world.


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