Renewed confidence in Zambia’s investment climate has prompted the nation’s largest copper miner to unveil a trailblazing US$1.35 billion package of new projects. First Quantum Minerals this week approved plans to invest US$1.25 billion in its long-awaited expansion of Kansanshi’s operations in Solwezi – known as the ‘S3’ project – and a final US$100 million to start its $250 million Enterprise nickel project in Kalumbila.
Together, the two investments represent the largest investment in Zambia since FQM’s Sentinel project was approved in 2012 and are the first step in realising the Government’s vision for the mining sector, which includes increasing production to 3 million tonnes of copper a year within the next decade.
Commenting on the announcement at the African Mining Indaba 2022 held in Cape Town, South Africa on 9 May 2022, Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Paul Kabuswe said, “We are extremely positive that this phenomenal investment will translate into tangible benefits for our people in terms of jobs and participation in the supply value chain.”
First Quantum’s Representative, Dr Godwin Beene said the mining company has always been deeply committed to Zambia, with 78% of its annual global financial contributions paid over in Zambia, but that recent years had been characterised by an unhealthy stalemate.
“These investments have been waiting in the wings for years now, and it is deeply gratifying to me that, through these two major projects, First Quantum is committing itself to a long and bright future in Zambia, to the benefit of the company and the nation jointly. The Government deserve a great deal of credit for the approach they have taken since this administration commenced last year. They want to see a radical improvement in the size and scale of the industry over the next decade, confident in the belief that when mining does well, so does Zambia. These things do take time to come to fruition, but it does feel today like we are entering into a new and better future for the industry,” said Beene.
Kansanshi has been the lynch pin of Zambia’s copper mining industry over the last decade and a half, and was the first of the three massive, ultra-modern copper mines that have put North-Western Province on the mining map. In 2020, Kansanshi paid more than $ 495 million in taxes and other public contributions to Zambia, a significant portion of the total First Quantum contribution to the country of more than $850 million. However, as with all mines, ore grades have deteriorated over time, and without a pit expansion and realignment, together with significant investment into the processing facilities, the mine was destined to come to an early end in a matter of years.
First Quantum Minerals has now announced that it will proceed with this major investment, which will cost approximately $ 1.25 billion to undertake, and is known by the company as the ‘S3’ project. The project will extend the life of the mine until the 2040s, increase copper and gold production by around 25%. It will also add approximately 800 permanent jobs, and a further 1,800 during the construction phase. Crucially, it also safeguards the futures of the 8,500 people already employed at Kansanshi.
The new Enterprise nickel mine, located approximately 14 kilometres from FQM’s Sentinel mine in Kalumbila, has also now been given the go-ahead, following FQM’s pledge this week to invest a final $100 million. It is expected to be operational within 12 months’ time, and will employ approximately 700 full-time staff.
Zambia has long been synonymous with, and economically dependent upon, the copper mining industry. Minerals’ diversification has been a vital national aim of the New Dawn Government, and with today’s announcement it is now a distinct reality. Once operational, the Enterprise mine will be a top-10 global nickel mine, producing some 30 000 tonnes of nickel in concentrate annually, making Zambia Africa’s pre-eminent nickel producer. Enterprise’s high-grade nickel sulphide deposits provide precisely the type of nickel that is required to manufacture batteries for Electric Vehicles (EVs), thus positioning Zambia as a producer of strategic metals, namely copper and nickel, that are vital to the production of new technologies and the ‘green’ energy revolution.