ZAMBIA Africa's copper giant.

Author:Kunda, Anthony

Over the last decade, Zambia- one of the continent's largest producers of copper - had fallen on hard times. Low world prices for the metal and declining ouput from the state owned mines wreaked havoc on the economy. Now, the mines have been privatised and massive amounts of capital have been injected into the sector. Things are beginning to look up across the board. Will this be the start of a new era of prosperity for Africa's copper giant?

The privatisation of the country's copper mines which were previously under the state-run Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) has brightened economic prospects for the country's struggling economy as a whole, and the Copperbelt province in particular.

Nearly all the new mining companies that have bought Zambia's copper mines have made firm commitments of substantial recapitalisation programmes that will see Zambia, once again, boosting its copper exports by as much as 100%

Mopani Copper Mines (MCM), which owns Nkana and Mufulira, has, since acquiring the two mines in March last year, spent over $130m on working costs and new capital equipment, resulting in significant copper production increments.

MCM chief executive Tom Dale recently told local journalists that in its first year of production, the mining company is likely to produce at least 75,000mt of copper ore, a figure way above what ZCCM used to produce from the same mines.

The company's shareholders are soon to inject $30m for the acquisition of more capital equipment such drills, smelting machinery and rolling stock (railway wagons) to transport the company's increased copper output.

Tom Dale said: "Our plan is to increase copper output to over 200,000mt in two years time. We realise it is a hard task. But we are confident that we can make it with the right levels of investment and manpower."

MCM has also commissioned a study on the rehabilitation of its Mufulira copper refinery. MCM special projects manager Penny Dickson told the state-run Times of Zambia newspaper that: "We have commissioned a study of the Mufulira copper refinery in terms of rehabilitation and expansion with a view to improving performance."

Key to the future

Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), the other major company which owns Nchanga, Konkola and Nampwe mines, has also lined up massive recapitalisation programmes. According to Konkola News, a publication of the mining company, over $256m has been targeted for refurbishment of its mines. $77m will be spent on Konkola mine...

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