STUART LISULO, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has projected copper production to exceed 850,000 tonnes in 2017, mainly on account of rebounding prices on the international market.
In 2016, Zambiaâ€™s total copper production marginally rose to 770,588 tonnes from 710,860 tonnes in 2015, largely driven by output from First Quantumâ€™s Kalumbila Minerals Limited.
According to official Ministry of Mines data, only three out of a total of 10 large-scale mines posted increases in copper production year-on-year including; Kansanshi Mining; NFCAâ€™s Chambishi Mine and Sino Metals.
The coming-on-stream of FQMâ€™s Kalumbila Minerals in around mid-to-late 2015 was mainly what boosted the countryâ€™s total mining output last year with a total of 143,659 tonnes.
Mines permanent secretary Paul Chanda said the prospects for 2017 are largely positive, with copper production forecasted to exceed 850,000 tonnes on account of rebounding prices on the international market that are nearing US$6,000 per tonne.
â€œThe commodity prices on the international market have shown signs of rebounding and are expected to continue making positive gains in 2017. â€œCopper production is expected to reach above 850,000 tonnes this year, driven by the favourable commodity prices and continued recapitalisation of the mines,â€ Mr Chanda said in a statement issued in Lusaka over the weekend.
And reviewing last yearâ€™s performance, Mr Chanda said the mining sector had not performed as projected due to the depressed copper prices.
â€œThe performance of the mining sector in 2016 was not as the Ministry [of Mines] had projected. This was mainly due to the low commodity prices that led to the curtailment of operations and non-commencement of certain projects. However, we can state that the performance was average,â€ he said.
Large-scale copper production for 2016 was 770,588 tonnes, up from 710,860 tonnes in 2015, reflecting an increase of 8.4 percent.
â€œThis increase was mainly driven by the ramp up in production at Kalumbila and increased production at Kansanshi due to improved efficiency in the processing plants,â€ he said.
He said despite the overall increase in total copper output last year, mining companies such as Mopani Copper Mines and Lubambe faced challenges in mining the red metal, which included low commodity prices and electricity supply constraints.
â€œNotable reductions in production levels were recorded by Mopani following the suspension of some production ends to allow for refurbishment and completion of expansion projects. Lubambe reduced on its production following the challenge it faced in handling the huge volumes of water it has encountered in the course of its mining operations,â€ Mr Chanda said.
Data also shows small-scale copper production for 2016 was 3,701.8 tonnes, up from 3,100 tonnes recorded in 2015, mainly attributable to the increase in the mineral processing plants that had been set up by small-scale producers. Story courtesy of SUMA SYSTEMS
STUART LISULO, Lusaka