MINES and Minerals Development Minister Richard Musukwa says Mopani Copper Mines is now projected to hit 150,000 tonnes of copper production per year following ZCCM-IH’s takeover from Glencore Plc.

And Musukwa says an intensive search for ZCCM-IH’s strategic partner to run Mopani is underway, with government already having received expressions of interest from companies from at least six countries.

Speaking in Parliament, Wednesday, Musukwa announced that Mopani was now projected to produce 150,000 tonnes of copper per year.

“Government and ZCCM-IH are envisaged to ensure we have an immediate turn-around to the processes at Mopani. Key among this immediate turn-around is to ensure that all the facets, which promote production, all the associated operations begin to operate. In short, when the Synclinorium, the Anderson Shaft and the Mindola Shaft are all sychonorised to start operating, the turn-around growth of production in excess of over 150,000 metric tonnes per year will be achieved. I am sure that our technocrats from ZCCM-IH and Mopani will be able to provide this speed in terms of realising Zambia’s dream,” Musukwa said.

“The biggest liability that the mine has had has got to do with dismantling the debt owed to contractors and suppliers. That is where we have had a challenge. But if you look at the Mopani profile and the profile of other entities, Mopani was actually the best contractor supplier. The biggest challenge that our people have been complaining about in that score has been job opportunity and supply for our local contractors and supplies, which was heavily done by foreigners. The huge liability, which actually increased the cost of doing business at Mopani, was the payment to foreign contractors as opposed to local contractors. That is what built up the cost of operating in excess of over US $7,000 per metric tonnes. For us, this did not make sense, that is why government employed the interim management of Mopani to do a cost analysis and ensure that we reduced the indebtedness.”

And Musukwa said the search for ZCCM-IH’s strategic partner to run Mopani was underway.

“Engagements to attract a strategic partner have already commenced and yet to be finalised. Some of the companies, which have expressed interest include, among others, Turkey, Canada, United Kingdom, United States, China, Qatar and South Africa. The strategic equity partner will be expected to help in ramping up production by completing the following expansion projects at a total of US $300 million; Kitwe Synclinorium Shaft, which is at 95 per cent complete with the shaft, ventilation shaft and handling system already in place. (2) Mindola Shaft – the MSV is at 30 per cent completion with only the shaft reaming done but all the requisite components have already been procured and on-site. (3) Mufulira Henderson Shaft – the expansion project in Mufulira is 70 per cent complete with the shaft, ventilation shaft and a temporary ore handling system set up. 4) Synclinorium concentrator in Kitwe is at 99 per cent completion and awaits commissioning,” said Musukwa.

“The new infrastructure and the rehabilitation of old infrastructure will extend the life of Mopani Copper Mines by 20 to 35 years in addition to increasing annual Mopani own source copper production by about 40 per cent. The increase in production will not only make it easier to refund the loan much quicker, but will also allow for employment of more people at the mine. Further, government will ensure that separation packages are paid to all the workers before they are re-engaged under the new framework under phase two. I want to assure that for a long time, Mopani has been posting about 30,000 tonnes, the current figures that Mopani has produced with this COVID-19 challenge is in excess of over 34,000 metric tonnes. For us, we see this is a positive trajectory. In fact, our negotiating team among the critical issues when they came back at the last instance before we concluded was that Glencore was asking what has changed from the teams at Mopani that they have started producing better than they were around. For me, Zambians rose to the occasion because they know this is their survival.”