EPL plans to re-open Kabwe mine, says Report

London-Listed miner, Enviro Processing Limited (EPL) wants to spend over US$460 million to revive operations of the Kabwe lead, zinc and copper producer, situated in Central province after close to 10 years of inactivity.

The plant, it is proposed together with auxiliary infrastructure will be installed at a total cost of more than US$465,000, the lead and zinc recovery project will cost about US$11 million while resources will go towards securing equipment to revive copper production.

Berkeley Mineral Resources (BMR), through its Zambian subsidiary Enviro Processing Limited (EPL), has shown interest in reviving the closed Kabwe mine after it was abandoned several years ago under the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines for lack of recapitalization.

The BMR which is listed on the London Stock Exchange Alternative Investment Market plans to revive the mining project in two phases and is expected to create an initial 73 direct jobs from the onset with 300 more expected to be created as more components of the project are introduced.

According an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report seen by Mining News Zambia, the lead and zinc plant forecasts to process about 3,000 tons of copper ore per month to produce about 100 tons of copper concentrates per month, while the lead and zinc project will produce 171,120 tons in five years.

EPL also proposes to establish the copper processing plant on site. The copper ore in the main will be sourced from within a 150-kilometre radius of Kabwe, old Kabwe concentrator located within the existing EPL mine license area,” according to the report.

It is proposed that this plant and the lead and zinc recovery project will be built near the old site.

Principle units of the plant will include among others, primary and secondary crushing of copper ore material, acid leaching, solid and liquid separation, copper cementation production, residue neutralisation and tailings disposal.

The process wash and leach plant tailings will  be expected to produce lead and zinc concentrates, which will significantly reduce the levels of lead and eliminate pollution in the area and at the same time contribute to the development of Kabwe town.

It is envisaged that the projects will have both positive and negative impacts on biophysical and social environment even though, the projects are likely to create soil, water and air pollution as a result of spillage of chemicals

The project is expected that the export of zinc and lead will enable the country generate valuable foreign change for the country and promote regional and local economic development.

According to developers, the project is expected to commence operations later this year or early 2015, the EIA adds.

The miner has been acquiring surface rights in Kabwe and licenses over zinc and lead tailing dumps since 2008 and completed the acquisition of all the relevant assets, surface rights, mining plot and licenses in 2012.

The developers say the project:  “has done a quality intensive verification process of samples in South Africa and we found that there [is] still a large percentage of base minerals in those (tailing) dumps.”

There are also other minerals such as indium, silver and gallium inside the tailing dumps, the EIA reveals.

Kabwe Mine was closed in 1996 after the operations were judged to be “uneconomic”, turning the town into a ‘ghost town’. BMR owns other mineral assets in Zambia. Seemingly, the environmental issues have been sorted out with the Government although no details have been provided publicly.

Historically, the rebirth of Kabwe town-through the mining sector, will undoubtedly create more employment to the local people, having endured various phases of environmental degradation over the years.

In 2006 the town was ranked among the world’s ten most polluted spots in the world.

However, various environmental stakeholders in collaboration with among other donors, the World Bank had within a year, raised resources to overcome the environmental effects-chiefly the remains of the lead substance that was affecting the people in the area.

The World Bank then raised and provided $50m grant to Zambia to help clean up the environmental damage caused to Kabwe, Zambia’s oldest mining towns, where operations and mining of lead and zinc are estimated to have started around 1903. 

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