STUART LISULO, Solwezi
ZAMBIA should continue to encourage more investment in the mining sector to boost its copper production capabilities, United States Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz has said.
And Mr Schultz says Kansanshi Mining is a â€œwell-runâ€ mining company.
Speaking during a familiarisation tour of Kansanshi Mine, Mr Schultz noted that there is need for Zambia to continue encouraging more investment into the sector if the country is to boost its copper production capabilities.
Zambiaâ€™s total copper production marginally rose to 770,588 tonnes in 2016, from 710,860 tonnes in 2015, mainly driven by output from First Quantumâ€™s Kalumbila Minerals Limited.
The coming on stream of First Quantum Mineralâ€™s Kalumbila in around mid-to-late 2015 was mainly what boosted the countryâ€™s mining output last year, with a total of 143,659 tonnes, while Kansanshi recorded the highest output of 253,273 tonnes last year, from 226,674 tonnes in 2015.
â€œI think it is in Zambiaâ€™s interest to continue to encourage investment into the mining sector and continue to encourage greater production. The Honourable Minister of Mines [Christopher Yaluma] was quoted as saying that â€˜Zambia should be producing about two million tonnes a year.â€™ I think that sounds fine, but right now, you are producing 750,000,â€ Mr Schultz told journalists during the tour on Tuesday.
â€œHow do you more than double production unless you increase investment and either the number of the mines or the quality of the mines or the technical proficiency of the minesÂ all of which involves greater investment; the only way you increase production is through greater investment, and investment is increased through a more favourable investment regime.â€
Asked whether US President Donald Trumpâ€™s pledge to boost infrastructure spending in that country could positively impact on increased mining investment in Zambia, he expressed optimism that it eventually would.
The price of the red metal on the international market marginally increased to over US$5,000 per tonne following President Trumpâ€™s electoral victory last November.
â€œAny commodity price is driven by supply and demand, so if there is a big infrastructure project in the United States that is going to drive demand and if demand in China increases, that is going to drive demand for copper. So, the answer is that if you look at underlying trends in the global economy, demand for copper is probably going to increase. If supply does not match, then the price goes up,â€ he added.
â€œI think that there is every reason to think that there could be much more investment into Zambia to produce copper for a world that needs more of it.â€
And Mr Schultz observed that Kansanshi was a â€œwell-runâ€ mine.
â€œMy impression is that it is a very well-run operation as Sentinel is as well,â€ said Ambassador Schultz.
He said the main purpose of his visit to Kansanshi was on behalf of FQMâ€™s American stakeholders. – SUMA SYSTEMS
STUART LISULO, Solwezi